How someone could mistake the well-lit room with tables of snacks and drinks, the room buzzing with excitement, the room where swag was being distributed for the room lit by an overhead projector, the room where a carafe of coffee for participants was brought in from home by an instructor, the room where participant guides the size of a phone book were stacked at the end of a table, the room where an excruciating death by PowerPoint awaited, how a mistake like that could be made by someone with a flair for the obvious is beyond understanding. However, the mistake was made.
The someone was me.
I arrived early and took a seat up front. As is my usual practice, I struck up conversations with others as they came into the room, even inviting one person who’d taken a seat several tables away to join me and the young man at my table lamenting he’d not taken the time to stop at Starbucks for a hot chocolate as he enjoyed fresh fruit from the snack table.
I discovered my name wasn’t on the sign in sheet.
“Just write it in at the bottom. There were a few names not on the list at the reception last night too,” said the young woman passing around the sign in sheet.
I don’t know why her statement didn’t set off any bells. Something in my brain should have signaled to some other part of my brain the fact that I hadn’t attended a reception with this group the night before.
It wasn’t until we chatted about the features of the new smart phones and I’d learned that the person I’d invited to join my table was a professional photographer and that he and his wife enjoy ballroom dancing, it wasn’t until we’d exchanged phones to look at one another’s photo galleries, it wasn’t until the room had become standing room only, it wasn’t until I heard “Welcome, please take a seat, let’s get started” that it hit me.
I was in the wrong room.
I stood and walked out into the hall where I saw a familiar face heading into the room next door. I went back into the crowded room, gathered my belongings and tried not to be observed. (In the front of the room, as the head of the organization was presenting opening remarks, pushing my way through the people seated closely together who did not make it easy for me to get passed them.)
I wasn’t embarrassed. I didn’t make a scene by announcing my mistake. I just left the room and went next door. I took the swag.
Was that wrong?
I suppose if I ever do use the nice canvas bag with its multi-pocket organizer, embossed with the organization’s logo, I will be forced to remember my mistake. As if that isn’t punishment enough, I sat through three days of
mind-numbing boredom required training.
The first day, one participant, who refused to actually participate in the group activities, told us that she’d had so much training over the years that she wasn’t going to learn anything by going through the scenario with us. Instead she talked over the instructor and high jacked discussions with stories of what happens in the “real world”.
By the way, she got credit for taking the class the same as the rest of us.
The next two days were spent listening to the poorly executed delivery of outdated materials exacerbated by long sighs from one instructor who constantly interrupted during the other instructor’s presentations.
INSTRUCTORS SHOULD NOT READ POWER POINT SLIDES. They certainly should not read every. single. slide. in. the. deck!!!!! This is especially important when the deck is the size of a freaking phone book.
NOTE: Text animations DO NOT improve Power Point slides.
Tandem instructors should not compare resumes in front of a class as a means of emphasizing the importance of a topic.
“I’ve done this and that and this other thing. So, I know I’m correct when I say…”
“Well, I’ve been in this situation during this or that…”
Who cares?!#$%@ Just because a person has war stories doesn’t mean they are the best choice for delivering training.
Then there’s the end of course survey, supposedly anonymous, but you have to set it down in front of the instructor before you can get your certificate of completion.
What good does it do to comment that instructors should know better than to read the Power Point deck? What good does it do to remark that organizations should know better than to send instructors into a classroom with such outdated materials that they have to skip entire sections and apologize for the parts that make no sense? What good does it do to say that the instructors gave off a serious “don’t anyone dare have a question if you want to get through this shit load of material” vibe?
Participants who have attended hundreds of hours of technical, soft skill and other training walk away with a severe case of wtf? what a farce, but what good is bringing up any of that when the decision makers within an organization won’t act on it?
With the exception of knowing specific policies and procedures, most people who volunteer have to wing it. They have to be flexible because every event is different. They have to follow directions and at the same time, take initiative, be creative, manage the expectations of everyone with whom they interact as well as their own, and above all, be aware of public perception. Knowing how to do all of these things well takes experience.
Because of inadequate training, many times volunteers must rely on information they’ve managed to piece together. If they’re lucky, they’ve participated in a simulation or at the very least, find themselves working alongside others who aren’t too wrapped up in themselves to be helpful. In the end, volunteers do what they are told to do by whoever is in charge. God help ‘em if those in charge don’t have proper training.
It happens more often than you think.
Budgetary restriction is an acceptable reason for not providing snacks and drinks for class participants; it is NOT an acceptable excuse for neglecting to cultivate skilled instructors and provide adequate materials to those who volunteer their time.
A passion for community service keeps me focused on my goals. Knowing my strengths and my limitations helps to keep my expectations realistic. At the same time, I recognize that I often expect more than most people when it comes to training.
I often have to remind myself just to salute smartly and carry on.