When reading John Hunt’s excellent book “the art of the idea”, I picked up what I think is a useful idea for us training facilitators that I want to share with you.  

If the training room doubles up as a general meeting room don’t ignore what training programme participants might feel about that room. To them it might mean hours of boring meetings. Maybe it is the same room where last week they were informed about impending retrenchments.  This will in all likelihood directly affect their attitude when coming to our workshops if situated in the same room. What can we do about this? According to Hunt the first prize is to change the room. If possible go to somewhere which it is at least neutral but better if it is a positive energizing environment.  Second prize is as he puts it, “if you can’t change the room, change the room”!  Do whatever possible to make the room look, feel or sound different. Hunt suggests some ways of doing this as playing music at the start (I know from firsthand experience that this definitely works) and/or turning pictures upside down and see if anyone notices.  Some that I have used are moving the tables and chairs around from the normal design and (in desperate situations!) asking everyone to “park” their shoes at the door!  What do you suggest?

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Too true.. .too true... changing the energy of the room will change the energy of the people. The easiest and most immediate way to do this is get people to do simple physical exercises, eg, put their hands behind their backs and walk slowly around the room in a clockwise direction then reverse direction. Ask them to wave their hands in the air and shout "whoo". Touch their toes etc or give the guy on the left a shoulder massage, then turn to the right and do the same.
Remember all is energy and we control it.
Talk about the evolution of training;-) I have honestly never really considered the "Training Room" has being so important. I agree with the idea though that it can have a negative impact on the learning intervention especially if the learners have had bad memories or experiences in the very same room that you now have to motivate and inspire them in. Thanks for this Nigel, I plan to add it to my checklist:-)
Hi Nigel,

Much as I share your belief that a room has a distinct enery of it's own, I have found that by doing many of the things others have already mentioned, one can help to change the energy through optimising the energy of the learners themselves. Personally, I believe that creating an environment that is fun is the best way of giving the energy of the room and the learners a "lift". I used to tap into the resources on and went into every training session armed with stories, games, exercised, braingym etc., to keep energy up. Would love to hear more ideas on how to keep the energy up. Thanks for the interesting discussion.
Hi Nigel

Thank you for reminding us about this important concept- I use music and different forms of seating and love your idea about the shoes. In the beginning of the session I ask the group what it feels like to be in a "classroom"- its amazing the responses they give- mostly how it takes them back to negative experiences at school or other placesof learning.
The other spin on this is relates to how the facilitator experiences being in the room. I consciously sit when facilitating this definately helps with barriers. Jenni Williams
ja neh :-)

Am not sure about taking the shoes off though. . .hahaha, but it sure helps to change the room. what we normally do for our induction courses is put stress balls on the delegates tables and other interesting items or play a game called "guess who sings this songs" and have a variety of music depending on your group, also have a score board, the group that has many points wins a prize, you must see the excitement and the look on their faces.
It is important to put good meal in the best dishes, but the results depend on the skill of the waiter or waitress. Neutral or a positive energizing training room may stand you in good state for succefull training, over all, the training facilitator must creat a whole new framework for franc discussion about the future of the company.
Despite what I did with the room, I've always had more success when training Off-site for a customer, otherwise the delegates still "remain in the office situation" and they will want to go and check e-mails during breaks, etc. A venue removed as far as possible from their normal routine worked best. Cost could be a problem however. Also the traveling to the training venue - new traffic problems every day, etc etc. But a change to a new area could be worthwhile investigating - I stay in Bela Bela , the old Warmbaths, only 100km/1hour North of Pretoria, and we have dozens of wonderful game lodges in the Bush, with excellent conferencing/training facilities at prices that would surprise you. I can forward you details if you want them. Marietjie Niebuhr
Hmmm.. Some interesting comments :)

Personally, i feel that the experiences that learners have already had in that room is going to effect, certainly, the beginning enthusiasm with which your participants approach the whole session and whether or not negative emotional experiences hamper their receptivity. Yes, the facilitator's personality and energy level as well as course content will definitely be a make or break, but as we know first impressions... and the introductory part of the course can set he tone for the session, certainly whether the learner switches off or becomes enthused. So, I would do something that would shock them out of their comfort zone of association. I will have to think of some activity ideas and post them here later, but for now here is a tip:

Firstly, you could plan an exercise within the room, but not allow anyone in before the activity is to begin. In other words, the room is out of bounds, you have complete control of the environment, and control of when they enter. You have created an air of perhaps a little mystery and expectation of something interesting. Make your changes to the room and plan an activity that is exciting and physical and interesting as in, something that they may not have expected. And when you are ready, you stand on the outside, with the door still closed, explaining the activity, and only then open the door to begin the session and let them enter. You could even say to them, that as they enter they should see themselves leaving the office behind and entering a new place, a place where they can brain storm and discuss and learn etc.

By the way that you have planned the room and the initial activity, you have shaped the new way that they will perceive the room. Now, any changes that you have made will have more impact and the room now seems more separate to the whole office space.

A last thought:
Professionalism really comes down to the quality of your program and the way that you carry yourself and hold your own. A person is never too old to play! :)


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