The worst thing about using an external training provider, even if they are from a well-established company with a good reputation, is that, frankly, you don’t know what you’re going to get on the day.
On this particular occasion, the trainer turned up -- but the materials didn’t.
That might have been manageable if we had been in a computer lab with 20 teachers. Instead, we were in a hall with around 200 teachers, most of whom were there to be convinced that they needed IT skills, and to be dragged kicking and screaming into using them.
Frankly, I don’t blame them. It’s tough to argue against “My results have always been excellent, and I’ve never used anything more technical than a chalkboard.” There are ways to persuade teachers of that school of thought to at least dip their toe in the digital water, but dragooning them into a school hall to be lectured at for an hour is not known to be the most efficacious approach.
Unfortunately, we were obliged to facilitate this farce, as a condition of getting truckloads of funding.
Well anyway, there we were, doing the best we could to show that this was going to be a really worthwhile training session, and that everyone was going to get the most fantastic resources pack they’d ever seen in their lives. Except that there were no resource packs to be seen anywhere.
After some frantic phone calls, they suddenly turned up.
It wasn’t the trainer’s fault -- they seem to have been let down by someone in the office. Unfortunately, not everyone understands that you can’t keep a couple of hundred busy people stuck in a hall and expect them to then be eager recipients of what you have to offer. Of course, being the consummate professionals that my colleagues and I were, we did manage to salvage the opportunity -- but there is no doubt that it was much harder by that poor start.
There are a couple of psychological concepts which are useful: primacy and recency. People’s first experience of something, and their most recent experience, tend to be highly influential. Therefore, when one’s first experience of IT training is being kept waiting with nothing to do for an hour, that is unlikely to predispose them to desire more. And it’s overcoming that which makes it so much more difficult than if the experience had gone without a hitch in the first place.
Well, you know the old saying: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on you. Since then, whenever I’ve organised or been involved in the organisation of a training day I’ve insisted on the following. Indeed, I have it built into the contract so that if these conditions are not adhered to, we can have a discussion about the price:
All physical materials must arrive at the training centre at least a week in advance.
There must be more than enough to be distributed. I get quite annoyed when a presenter or trainer says, in the session itself, “I’ve only brought along 20 copies; could I use a photocopier?” That requirement should have been dealt with in advance.
Ditto any digital presentations.
Ditto any special requirements such as internet access (or photocopies -- see above).
The trainer must arrive at least an hour early on the day, to make sure the set-up is as expected and required. Of course, most people do this anyway.
Using an external trainer is always a bit of a risk, because they’re an unknown quantity. For my part, when I am the external trainer I abide by all the above requirements, regardless of explicit contractual obligations. It’s not only because I want to preserve my good reputation: I couldn’t face the embarrassment of turning up and discovering that everything I needed had not!