Practica: Degrees of separation?


Like many of you, I've delivered training in a wide variety of venues. I've listed a few of them below, not because they are the most outstanding ones – some were, but some were definitely not – but because I would like to discuss the relative merits of venues for the kinds of work we do.

  • A conference center on Big Sur
  • A monastery in Wurttemberg
  • A castle in Toscana
  • A cruise ship on the Lena River
  • A seaside resort outside Manila
  • A hotel in Zaventem
  • A motel on the autoroute
  • A rented schoolroom
  • At the workplace, at HQ

The question I am raising is, how far do your participants need to be physically, practically and emotionally from their daily grind, their fixed atmosphere, to refresh themselves and become open for new learning? 

The problem with holding a training at headquarters used to be, and in some cases still is, how to keep participants from running back to their offices, skipping out to meetings and doing local errands at every free break time, and therefore planning these activities at least mentally while you are trying to otherwise engage them? With the advent of smartphones the lines at the conference center payphones disappeared, but the potential distraction has increased,

Even if your workshop concerns an intact working group you face the question of separating them from elements that distract their ability to function in a learning mode, including unresolved team issues. Remoteness may then be an asset, but it is getting harder and harder to achieve. You are unlikely to get a river cruise through the wilderness into the arctic circle, sans phones, sans internet, where an afternoon fishing break brings supper to the table. I suspect this was a once in a lifetime venue for me.

Despite the ubiquitousness of technology there may be something satisfying and inspiring in the more exotic or more extraordinary venue, the castle, the monastery, or something close to the beach. Again, budget rears its ugly head, in that such venues will perhaps not more expensive than themselves may require more off time and travel costs for the participants that a company is willing to spend, though many of these venues have been redesigned with conference holders in mind, and provide excellent accommodations and services. They also have the advantage of sending the message that the organization values the employees who are sent to places out of the ordinary.

Some organizations have a traditional fixed provider whom they have cultivated to the point where the venue is known and valued among employees who have valued the experiences they have had there. Thus, it becomes part of the company culture, perk, so to speak, when employees are invited to an educational event held there. Being aware of this should encourage you to take advantage of such a venue.

It would be interesting to hear from you about the venues that have served you well as well as those that have added something extraordinary to the experience.

Image: Training on the Lena

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