training in courtyard

Training taken outside when conditions – and venue – allowed

Imagine turning up for work to find that your tools had been taken away. Imagine what would happen if you turned up at work and the key tools you need to do your job had been taken away without warning. No computer, no desk, no tools.

It happens to us regularly. We design our training to be highly interactive– and the layout of the training room is an essential tool.

We ask for participants to be seated at round tables of no more than six people to maximise group interaction. We don’t use PowerPoint, so we need a flip chart per table for working sessions and room to hang the outputs on the walls.

Our exercises involve movement and participation so we need space to move. We also prefer natural light as that makes a huge difference to attention levels and energy after two days, particularly for participants crossing time zones.

We even make recommendations on snacks and drinks as sugary snacks (which are the norm in training venues) have a negative impact on attention. Instead we recommend fruit and nuts.

Does this sound too much detail? This is our ideal and we are used to working within the constraints that others impose. However, as professionals we want to do the best job we possibly can and will try to deliver the best environment for learning that we can. None of the factors make 50% difference in the quality of the event, but all have a small, and cumulative impact.

We specify these preferences in our venue layout and send it to hotels and clients: it’s fundamental to the design of our matrix management, global working and virtual teams training.

Yet regularly we arrive at hotels or client offices to find a cramped and dark room, sometimes with a fixed boardroom table taking up all the space and making group work difficult. Sometimes we have only one flip chart for 20 people.

Hotels, despite having had the venue details in advance as a condition of booking, announce that nothing can be stuck on the walls. Sometimes I ask if they can provide members of staff to hold up the flip charts instead 🙂

The design of hotel meeting room often prevents the use of walls with wall coverings or pictures that take up all the space.

It’s our equivalent of having our tools of the trade taken away. They may not be huge things individually but all of them make creating participation and engagement that bit harder and mean we have to compromise our preferred design.

We cope with it of course, running training in hot dark basements in Turkey and freezing portakabins in Bulgaria.

It even causes a problem when you train somewhere that is too nice. If your participants spend all day looking out at people enjoying themselves on the beach in Brazil and then finish work when it gets dark, they are usually pretty unhappy (though it’s easier to cope with than the freezing Bulgarian portakabin to be honest).

So if you are involved in specifying training rooms or meeting rooms or hosting a trainer-  or even if you want to increase participation and engagement in your own meetings and events – pay attention to layout and the small aspects of venue planning. They can make a significant difference.

Why not…?

About the author:

Kevan Hall Kevan Hall is a CEO, author, speaker and trainer in matrix management, virtual teams and global working. He is the author of "Speed Lead - faster, simpler ways to manage people, projects and teams in complex companies, "Making the Matrix work - how matrix managers engage people and cut through complexity", and the "Life in a Matrix" podcasts, videos, cartoons and blog. He is CEO and founder of Global Integration. Company profile: .

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