Sailing and sailing regattas usually spell fun-in-the-sun for some lucky folks in the summer. Exciting, unpredictable and hopefully uneventful, sailing has many similarities to the teaching/training world. The training lessons we can learn from sailing, should not be taken lightly: as they illustrate some top training mistakes.


A good sailor knows you have to chart your journey, consider the ever-changing wind and weather and prepared for the unexpected.

One of my pet peeves, is when you know a presenter, teacher or trainer is (clearly) just ‘winging it’. Such unpreparedness shows a lack of respect for the [paying] audience. Now, having said that, there are people who can just talk off the cuff and be extremely organized in their thought process and somehow stay on topic. But lets face it, can you really expect to do that successfully? Will it showcase your skills in the best light?

Talking is one thing, but when you are giving a demonstration it is another thing. Demonstrations require the planning of  your navigation. I always have a cheat-sheet to help even if the demo is something that I really know well. On my cheat-sheet I always record key points so I will talk through them. Not everyone will be as familiar with whatever you are demonstrating, so it is important for you to help navigate them with phrases such as “… in the top left had corner there is a pull-down menu, I’m clicking on that and selecting…” I try to orally navigate my audience as if they were visually challenged or if English was their second language. Remember to slow-down, consider the different learning styles and practice your navigation. The more prepared you are, the higher the probably of success you will have.


I remember the excitement of ‘hiking’ on a sailboat, just like in the photo above. Wow, what an adrenaline rush, especially when you hike (or hang) off the boat so far that you wet your hair in the water.

While living on the edge and ‘stretching’ may be a rush. It poses some risks, just like the time I backward somersaulted off the boat into the water! (That was embarrassing!)

When you are training, it is exciting to ‘stretch’ a little and pose a controversial question or try a new challenging exercise. BUT: Do you really have time to do these things? Will they really add value? Is it worth the risk? So, always be prepared with a back plan… and if things go wrong, NEVER forget your sense of humour!


A sailing ‘best practice’, (and really a no-brainer), is equipment testing. If you watch parents of sailing youngsters, they’ll equipment check (or ask about equipment checking) several times before the young sailor ‘sets sail’. They wouldn’t dare let one of their children out on the water without equipment checking.

If you are dealing with any technology, it is important to equipment check. As an instructor, I used to arrive early to ensure the equipment was set up properly and in working order (even though I had checked the night before). (Back in the really old days), we even had spare light-bulbs for our three overhead projectors. When traveling on technical marketing awareness roadshows, we always equipment tested because invariably something did go wrong at the last-minute. Don’t laugh, when technology is involved, Murphy does show up. (I love this quote from the Murphy’s Law Website: )

Murphy’s Law

“If anything can go wrong, it will…
Corollary: It can…
Corollary: It should…
Corollary: At the most inopportune time…

Extension: it will be all your fault, and everyone will know it.


So, in closing:

  1. Plan your navigation, especially in ‘tricky waters’.
  2. Mitigate the risks when you ‘stretch’ above and beyond what you are used to.
  3. Always, always equipment check. It is one thing to fail because of better competition, bad weather or conditions OR stretching and really trying. However, failure because you didn’t check your equipment: now that is unforgivable.

Until next time, enjoy the summer sun and breezes!


Image of  “Connor Hiking on Connor Bay”, Port Maitland Lighthouse in the background, courtesy of Gord Palin.