Training & Development For Dummies
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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. If it is large, pull the tables together close to the front to create a warm and friendly grouping.

  • 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.

  • Accessibility: 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.

  • 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. There are probably two dozen ways you could set up the training room The seven seating arrangements in the figure are typical. Consider the advantages to your participants for each arrangement. The table provides guidance about why you may select each.

    Seating arrangements.
    Seating arrangements.
  • 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! In my experience 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. Be sure to use blue painters tape, Some tapes are so strong that they remove the paint from the wall. 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. The only brand that I know lives up to this expectation is Mr. Sketch. Not only that, but they smell good as well — scented like cherry, mint, orange, licorice, and blueberry!

  • 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? Obtain that person's phone number.

    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.

Seating Arrangements
Seating Style Number Benefits Drawbacks
U-shape Best for
groups of 12 to 22
Encourages large group discussion
Can push back to form small groups
Close contact between facilitator and participants
Difficult to form small groups with those on other side
Eye contact between some participants is
difficult due to the linear layout
Single Square or Round Best for groups of 8 to 12 Facilitates problem
Smaller size increases total group involvement
Easy for facilitator to step out of the action
Media and visual use is difficult
Limited group size
Conference Best for 8 to 12 Moderate communication among group Maintains trainer as "lead"
Sense of formality
(with V pointing to front)
Best for teams of 4 or 5 and groups of 16 to 25 Easy to work in teams at each table
No one has back totally to the front of room
Some difficulty to promote teamwork among entire group
Clusters Best for groups of 16 to 40 Promotes teamwork in each cluster
If chairs are placed on only one side of the table, everyone will face the front of the room
Difficult to get those whose backs are to front to participate
Some participants may need to turn chairs to face the front of the room
Classroom For groups of any size Traditional, may be expected by learners
Trainer controls
Participants can view visuals
Low involvement
One way
Difficult to form small groups
Traditional classroom Best reserved for groups over 40 Traditional, may be expected by learners
Trainer controls
Low involvement
One-way communication
Difficult to form small groups

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Elaine Biech is president and managing principal of ebb associates inc, an organizational and leadership development firm that helps organizations work through large-scale change. Her 30 years in the training and consulting field include support to private industry, government, and non-profit organizations.

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