Tag Archive: training mistakes


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.

UNPREPARED NAVIGATION

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.

HIKING: LIVING ON THE EDGE

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!

EQUIPMENT CHECK

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.

CROSSING THE FINISH LINE

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!

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

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Even experienced trainers make mistakes. But face it, you can’t afford to blow it in front of a group of paying customers.

    GETTING STALE: USING THE SAME-OLD APPROACH

I have talked about some of my painting techniques in previous posts. Yes, I know a few of them are ‘off the wall’ (so to speak). BUT at sometime I tried these techniques and as odd as they sound, I found that they work.

When I was taking my CSIA certification, Mark, a fellow skier, suggested to Jane, our trainer, that he had a great time saving technique for painting woodwork. (And if you’ve ever painted woodwork, you know how difficult and time consuming it can be.) His secret tool was to use a small 3 inch sponge roller rather than a paint brush AND if possible, his secret technique was to paint the woodwork before you install it. I couldn’t wait to try Mark’s approach… and when I did, I was so surprized at how easy painting the woodwork had become.

This goes to show you that you never know when or where you may get helpful hints and tips. You may even pick up some tips on developing or delivering training in the supermarket… AND if you do, don’t be afraid to try something new.

THAT IS STRETCHING IT!

While Mark’s approach to woodwork may have been a ‘no brain-er’ to try, other tools and techniques may just seem odd. It is best to try them out in the privacy of your home/in front of colleagues before you try them ‘live’ in front of paying customers (i.e. your students).

Consider the risk. That is why I always say: “Don’t reach, don’t stretch.” If you are not ready to facilitate a discussion on a new topic, then don’t do it.

Just like I learned my lesson long ago about painting without a drop sheet over carpet: practice before you ‘go live’, always have a safety net and think of what can happen if something goes wrong. What if your students are quiet and don’t ask questions? What if the online demo doesn’t work? What if the students can’t relate to your examples/illustrations?

That may sound a bit like motherhood, but this next tip may be less obvious.

BEWARE OF THE DEADLINE

I was having friends over and wanted to finish up all my painting beforehand. (I should have known better after the ‘BBQ incident’ years ago.) I wasn’t nervous or out of time, I guess I was subconsciously rushed or perhaps it was not a good day to paint.

Lots of things went wrong as I outlined in: Painting Lessons (Part 2) .  All these mistakes impacted my end ‘product’ and caused me a lot of work to remedy.

Subconscious stress can impact your teaching/training. On a multi-day session, sometimes your attendees may want to finish early to start the drive home OR you may put pressure on yourself to catch an early flight.

My advice is: BEWARE!

If you are teaching a multi-day course you have plenty of options (these options are not mutually exclusive):

  • Adjust the length of the days leading up to the last day so you can cover additional material each day,
  • Cover extra material the day before,
  • OR start earlier on the last day.

Whatever you do, don’t forgo or cut short the Summary.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF YOUR TRAINING SESSION

You need a good Introduction and a great Summary. The intro sets the stage, provides context and should motivate your students to listen. The Summary, in my opinion, is typically overlooked and hurried — AND that is a HUGE MISTAKE.

Just like the finishing touches can make or break a domestic project, the wrap-up can impact your training session. When you review that objectives (what the attendees were supposed to learn) and you give a high level overview of what they learned and draw something visual to put their learning in context, then some of your attendees piece together lots of thoughts and can have an ‘ah ha’ moment.

As a trainer, you’ll get a tremendous amount of satisfaction in getting your students to this ‘ah ha’ moment.

GETTING TO THE  ‘AH HA’ MOMENT

So, remember to get your students to the ‘AH HA’ moment, by:

  • Keeping it fresh by trying new approaches (tools, techniques, etc),
  • Never ‘stretching’ to try something you are not prepared for (hence avoiding disasters),
  • Thoughtfully thinking out and taking the time to summarize to put all their learning in context

Please leave me a comment, if you want to hear more (even if it is about the ‘BBQ incident’).

Until next time…

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Flickr Creative Commons Image by B Rosen