Preparing Your Training Environment
Establishing an environment conducive to learning is a critical aspect of starting a training session off on the right foot. You can ensure that participants walk in to a relaxed atmosphere and an environment that is welcoming and ready. The room says you took the time to get ready for them. You have time to greet them and welcome them to a great training session.
Know when, where, what, who
Just about every trainer has encountered at least one training nightmare. Some (not all) of these could be prevented by additional preparation. These questions may help you obtain the right information, but it will do you little good if you don't write the answers in a safe place.
- When: When is the training? Day? Date? Time? Also, do you have enough time to prepare? Is the amount of allotted time for the amount of content adequate?
- Where: Where is the session? On-site or off? If off-site, is it easy to travel to the location? How do you get there? What's the address? Telephone number? Will you need to make travel arrangements? Is public transportation available? How do you get materials to the site?
- What: What kind of training is being expected? What resources are required? What kind of facilities are available? What will you need?
- Who: Who is the key planner? Who are the participants? How many? What's their background? Why were you chosen to deliver the training? Who is the contact person at the training site? How do you reach that person on-site and off?
Lots of question; lots of answers. Write them down.
Your room may have significant impact on your training session. Arrange the room to support the learning objectives and the amount of participation you will desire.
Typically you will not have the opportunity to select a room. However, if you do, consider the attributes that will create the best learning environment for your participants.
- Size: Arrange for a room to accommodate the number of participants. Remember that a room that is too large can be as bad as one that may be too small.
- Training requirements: If the training session entails many small group activities, determine if there is enough space in the room. If not, arrange for additional breakout rooms to accommodate your needs.
- Accessible: Ensure that the room is accessible to all, including those who have limited mobility.
- Location: If participants need to travel (either by foot or vehicle) to the session, the location should not pose a hardship, for example, walking in rain, or parking difficulty.
- Convenience: Readily accessible restrooms, telephones, snacks, lunch accommodations, and so on help ensure that participants return on time following breaks or lunch.
- Distractions: Select a room that is free of distractions and noise. Thin walls with a sales convention next door may not create the environment you're trying to establish for learning.
- If you're in a room with a telephone, turn the ringer off and provide an alternate number for participants who need to be available for messages. Set a message center up outside the room; sticky-back notes available for leaving messages may be adequate.
- Obstructions: Select a room that is free of structures such as posts or pillars that may obstruct participants' views.
- Seating: Select a location that provides comfortable, moveable chairs. Seating arrangements should further enhance the learning environment you wish to establish. Determine what's most important for the learner.
- Furniture: In addition to decisions about the seating arrangements and the kind of tables you prefer, you will want a table in front of the room for your supplies and equipment. Don't allow too much space between the table from which you will present and the front participant row. Reducing the amount of space between you and the learners increases the affect level in the room. It closes the distance between you and the trainees both physically and emotionally. The participants feel better about you, themselves, and the training session.
- You may also want to consider positioning a table for refreshments in the back of the room. Located there, it can be easily serviced throughout the day. One more thing: Don't forget the wastebasket! Usually, neither training rooms nor hotel conference rooms have wastebaskets. Remember to ask for one.
- Lighting: Lighting should be adequate. Dimly lit ballroom ambiance will not promote energy in a training session. Is the lighting bright enough? Is it natural lighting? If the room has windows, which direction are they facing? Can windows be darkened, if necessary? A morning sun coming up behind your projection screen will blind the participants and wash out the image on the screen. Know where light switches are located so that you can brighten or darken the room as needed.
- Workable walls: Most trainers hang flipchart pages on the walls: the session objectives, small group work, and so on. Is wall space available or do windows surround the room? Does art cover the walls or are they open? Usually the front of the training room should be opposite the entrance to avoid distractions when folks come and go. Is that possible in the room you're considering?
- Use markers that absolutely do not bleed through so there is no danger of ruining walls.
- Climate control: You will never be able to please everyone in your session. However, if you have the ability to adjust it yourself, you can try. Determine where the thermostat is located and whether you have any control over it. Experiment with it while you set up the room. Does it respond quickly or slowly? Do you need to contact someone to make adjustments?
- When adjusting thermostats, make changes one degree at a time and give the equipment time to work. Large changes in the thermostat will cause a once too-cool room to become too warm.
- Microphone: If you have a large room or a large group or the room has poor acoustics or you have a tiny voice, you may need a microphone. Check the room to ensure it is wired for a microphone.