Some years ago, I was invited to conduct a program of international negotiation skills at a large hotel in Montréal. Just as we were into the first half hour of the morning session, a fire alarm went off. We quickly evacuated the building and stood outside while firefighters hosed the blaze. Fortunately, the fire was not too large and was quickly brought under control, so we were able to return to our training room about an hour later.
Just as we were getting to the meat of the topic, there was a creaking noise in the ceiling which grew in volume little by little until we heard a loud crack. Suddenly a fissure opened in the ceiling and water started raining down on the participants. The water, sprayed into the building by the firefighters had penetrated the walls and ceiling. Again we evacuated the room, went to the lobby, and were directed by the management to go to lunch and they would take care of everything, as well as and provide us with a new room for our afternoon session.
Well fed, we went to our new venue, sat down ready to work. As I was about to restart the program, one of the participant raised his hand. With a grin on his face, he asked in an innocent sounding voice, "Do the locusts come now?" In response to this, there was somewhat nervous laughter in the room.
This rather unique experience stimulated me to borrow the metaphor of the Ten Plagues of the Exodus story to describe some of the forms of malaise that we as teachers and trainers are likely to experience. Here's my list of the afflictions, gathered from experiences in the many countries I have worked in, that may make you want to flee:
- Blood – connections or collusion between participants, cliques, lovers trysting. Knowing about these "blood ties" beforehand would've been very useful, but your client failed to alert you and you failed to ask.
- Frogs – the persistently inarticulate intrusive or noisy participant or client make it difficult for you to stay on the point and for your participants to hear you.
- Lice – these may be harder to spot, but they are those participants who live off others, letting their partners or teams do all the work.
- Flies, mosquitoes, other bestial nuisances—real ones!
- Pestilence – environmental health hazards, infectious diseases, or the result of drinking water in a strange land, sometimes geographically described as: Bombay bottom, Delhi belly, Far East Two-step, Gringo gallop, Hong Kong dog, Saint Moritz, Singapore tummy, Spanish tummy, Tijuana cha-cha, Going global!
- Boils – pent up pain, issues that don’t go away. Problems people bring in with them that either hog the attention or distract them from participating.
- Hail – issues with the weather, heat, cold, the air conditioning, etc. You are shown where the thermo settings are, but they never seem to produce the effect you desire.
- Locusts – noisy environment, heaters, air conditioners, traffic on the street below. Nattering nuisances that nibble away at energy and attention.
- Darkness – inappropriate lighting. Your PowerPoint or audiovisuals can be seen only if you darken the room to the degree that you as the presenter cannot be seen!
- Slaying of the Firstborn – discovering that the key premise or the main idea of your learning model or critical content is unacceptable or already familiar to the participants.
What plagues you in training situations?
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