I’ve been a trainer since 1989, and worked as a facilitator for The Development Company for 21 years. As an experienced trainer, I get as much pre-event engagement with my learners as I can, agree measurable learning objectives, cox the learners’ manager to provide coaching with their member of staff to embed the learning, and provide my admin. needs.
Having the right working space is a challenge for us all now. Even friends who have built their own homes have regrets about how they would build rooms now. Space does play a part in all our lives, and its’ part in the learning process should not be ignored.
Physical space is a metaphor for mental space, so it is important that people feel they have enough space to work creatively, debate, and learn.
I’ve delivered training and facilitated learning events in some weird office space:
I once delivered a Minute Taking skills course in a corridor in a hospital. My course sponsor found she had lost her training room to a more senior ‘colleague’, so we worked in a linear space, along a corridor! Not ideal at all, as people were walking by with teas and coffees! And engaging my learners in a work related discussion because we were in a public area!
We need privacy when we are learning!
I am up for using office space in a creative way, and maximising the space available! However, I once got to my clients to be told the training room had been taken for a client meeting, and that I’d be training all day in one of the Directors offices!
It is so inappropriate to be sitting on the MD’s desk, with their family pictures everywhere, as you are training. We set the projector up to show film scenarios at the door, and pinned blank flipchart paper on the door to create the projection wall.
We all felt as if we were encroaching on someone else’s space all day – it was highly inappropriate. We had easy access to paperwork, so just think of the data protection implications!
A hotel bedroom
I’ve trained in a hotel bedroom on many occasions. It’s really not OK to be working in a space which is set up as a room, with furniture bundled into bedrooms around us. Empty bedrooms have a strange sound to them – like a house you have emptied and are about to move out of. It is a strange space to work in.
To be told – ‘Just use the toilet in the bathroom’ is also not OK! Who wants to go to the toilet whilst others a few feet away are sitting?
Once I led a training course in a bedroom in a boutique hotel in London! Space is a premium in big cities, so there was no option to move any office furniture! We had to lay on the bed to watch the training film as that was where the TV was facing!
I had so many items of furniture all around me it was like a wall - I felt detached from them all day.
Use space for what is was designed for.
I once ran a course for 6 people in the ballroom of the Palace Hotel in Buxton. A beautiful room, but our voices were lost, and we just rattled around in this enormous space. There were echoes, and it seemed a sad way to use such a grand room.
Having a space too large is as bad as being cramped.
This is the most common culprit. Office space planners up and down the UK seem to think that a meeting works best with a massive table in the room. I’m not a fan of having lots of office furniture between people, so I actually prefer the less is more approach. Furniture can be used as a barrier and can enable people to behave badly (do work, gang up on the facilitator, avoid getting involved, etc.).
Sitting around huge meeting room tables can put people into meeting mode – and I think some people still attend meetings rather than participate in them. It puts them into passive mode.
Training and facilitation involves moving your thinking. It requires the open minded switch to active mode. It needs adequate space to take us away from our day jobs at a desk doing ‘left brain’ work, to inspire a shift to ‘right brain’ mode.
So we may think we are saving money using the company boardroom, but it’s just not the right space to use for training courses.
So what space do I want, in order of personal preference:
U shape table and chairs:
It sounds crazy, but just moving desks so there is a gap in the middle makes me more accessible to every learner around the table. If there is a lot of writing, tables work well because learners have something to lean on. And put drinks on. And iPads and electronic stuff.
Conference chairs with writing tablets:
I like training rooms that have these, because learners can move freely into syndicate groups. Plus the room is easy to tidy at the end of the day.
Chairs in a U shape:
This works well, however the downside for both chairs options is drinks are easily kicked over as people move from group to group.
What space issues do other trainers come across? I’d be interested to hear from you. I have added a checklist below to help you think about your needs.
So what do we need for great training events?
Points to consider relating to the venue include:
- What do you need to know about it?
- Have you booked the room or area?
- Has everyone who should know been notified - security, catering and administrative staff as well as those attending?
- Is equipment secure if it is left there before or after the training session?
- Who’s responsible for locking the room?
- What arrangements have been made for latecomers?
- What arrangements been made for urgent messages to be taken and passed on?
- Is there a sign on the door to warn others not to interrupt your training?
- Will noise outside be a problem?
- Can the telephone or intercom in the room be shut off or disconnected in some way?
- Have you checked all the equipment in the room?
- Are there sufficient power points for the equipment you intend to use?
- Have you arranged and checked the seating in the room?
- Can everyone in the room see you and any visual aids clearly?
- Can you be clearly heard in all parts of the room?
- Are induction loops or other aids available for people with disabilities?
- Is the room you want to use comfortable and adequately ventilated?
- Is the room fully accessible to all your audience?
Guest post by: Kay Buckby, Training Consultant at The Development Company
Kay Buckby is an experienced trainer, coach and facilitator. She is learner driven, and designs and delivers pragmatic learning events. Her specialist areas are Management and Leadership development, Customer Care, Team Building and Communication Skills. Contact her to discuss your bespoke training programme