First Time Hosting an All-day Instructor-led Course

Yesterday was the first time I was host for an all-day training. Although my past experience may have helped me prepare for all this stuff, there were some things which surprised me. I’ve been the instructor for five-day software training events, some where it was business analysis followed by training. I was the instructor for a 14-week A+ certification course. I’ve taught 8-week Microsoft Office adult ed classes. I’ve hosted countless numbers of WebEx training sessions, and I have somewhere around 30 eLearning courses under my belt.

Being the host of an all-day event required pulling from my personal experiences, but it also made me realize that there was far more expertise involved. Here’s a diary of the day.

The course was scheduled to start at 8:30am. I was at work until almost 7pm the day before setting up the room and adding last minute printouts to the student handbooks (individual presentations are also posted online).

  • 07:30am: Planned time of arrival to work
  • 07:42am: Actual time of arrival to work (thanks, Springfield traffic)
  • 07:46am: BSOD (blue screen of death) when I tried to print the script for the class
  • 07:52am: Finally got the room. A SME was already there before me. In my head, I was chagrined.
  • 08:02am: Confirmed with IT that everything was up and running.
  • 08:15am: Realized the laser pointer was not functioning. Went on a pilgrimage to find AAA batteries.
  • 08:20am: The two brand new sets of batteries did not fix the laser pointer. I announced to the class to eat food… I will be back. I went on a second, high-speed pilgrimage to find a new clicker.
  • 08:29am: My second pilgrimage failed, so I ran back to get to the front of the room, thinking, it’s okay, we’ll make due without the clicker.
  • 08:30am: I turned on the slide show for my presentation, and the keyboard and mouse stopped responding. I buried my head behind the laptop (though everyone could see the projector) and my brain went into IT Troubleshooting mode.
  • 08:30am: I determined that some setting in reused slides was the problem. I turned on Rehearse Timings during my presentation… it was the only way I could get the keyboard and mouse to work.
  • 08:32am: My worst fear – I started two minutes late! I rolled through my module almost apologetically, forgetting the best practice to not point out flaws. The timer window in top-left corner of the presentation was a constant visual that something went wrong.
  • 08:40am: My first SME took the stage – right on time! Did anyone else notice that I ran through the room introductions like a drill sergeant? STATE YOUR NAME. STATE YOUR TITLE AND DEPARTMENT. STATE THE YEAR YOU STARTED. NEXT. NEXT… MOVING ON. Ouch.
  • 09:20am: I set the timer on my iPhone but forgot to shut it off when the module was done, so after directing that all mobile devices be set to silent, mine started beeping. Chagrin, again.
  • 09:21am: I realized I needed a bin to place the evaluations, so attendees started placing them in different spots. I corralled the evaluations and apologized for not providing a bin.
  • 09:30am: As soon as the next presentation began, I ran off and stole the first plastic “thing that would be the evaluation bin” from next to a random printer.
  • 09:32am: I realized that the bin that I stole had about three years of dust on it. Made a pit stop to clean it.
  • 10:35am: Thinking the SME was lagging behind, I held up a sign that said, “SPEED UP”, and then my SME finished 5 minutes early. Chagrin, again. I decided to limit my use of this agreed-upon cue for every other SME.
  • 02:10pm: Forgetting to reset my timer app, I based all of my cue cards off of an 1:10 class when it should have been an hour. Thinking he finished early, this SME was the first to finish late… and it was because of ME!!!! (Chagrin x 100)
  • 04:08pm: I took the stage 12 minutes early to present a small piece on our company’s website redesign. This was the first instructor-led course I presented since August, 2009. As I began to show the main navigation of the site, I looked out to see some of my attendees looked like they were going to fall asleep, die, or kill me. I cut 2/3 of the demo portion of my presentation out, completely sure I was going to get a score of 1 out of 5 and a resounding, “What the heck was that crap???” from the group.
  • 04:30pm: The class was done! And, on a beautiful summer day, I let everyone out 1/2 hour early.

So, this sounds like it should have been a disaster? It certainly did to me. However, for as devastating as all these things were, I had a few people tell me it was one of the best training programs they’ve attended. My evaluation was over a 4.5 out of 5.

In retrospect, I think I may have been the only one to notice most of this.

  1. I need to be more confident. My husband will probably read this and say, “I TOLD YOU SO… AGAIN!” A knowledgeable and well-respected colleague noted that I have the skills needed, but I need to have confidence that I’m competent. I continue to work on and struggle with this..
  2. Instead of sweating the small stuff and beating myself up, I should instead appreciate my problem-solving capabilities. Nothing that went wrong was the end of the world. It felt like it to me. Simple mistakes made me feel stupid, incompetent, and inexperienced. I’m actually kind of good at what I do (and that was the hardest thing to write on this page).
  3. SMEs do not all think or present the same, and the more I can accommodate their needs, the better they will present. Some have 20 years of instructing experience while others have just begun. What became very important during planning was to understand how each SME presents and to support each style.
  4. Tone down personal enthusiasm and limit my goals realistically. As my first instructor-led experience in my current capacity, I wanted to employ every technique that would make the day better. More examples! More scenarios! A full-fledged student workbook instead of PowerPoint slides! I handled a lot of my meetings as if they were brainstorming sessions. I think I created some extra stress for my SMEs. I treated some preparations as if I needed SMEs to chime in and approve every detail, while patting me on the back and telling me it’s all wonderful (back to point #1: I need to build confidence).
  5. Some decisions should be left to the me, the instructional designer, and that’s OK. This goes hand-in-hand with point #4 (and #1, again). It’s important for me to focus my SMEs on what they can do to improve the content that requires their expertise. It’s also important to realize that they have a bit part in an entire day, and that should be okay with me. Post-training feedback was that they didn’t care about a lot of the little things that make an entire day great, but they liked them. For example, I added a photo slideshow in between each session to run during break. I brought it up several times in planning sessions but got nearly nil feedback from SMEs – I almost nixed it because of the lack of interest. However, the slides sparked interest in the room, and I found SMEs and students congregating in front of a picture of a generator, sharing interesting stories about the industry! I loved it. I wanted to take pictures of the scene. What can I do for my SMEs without their blessing, and will the addition make things easier and better?
  6. Project management experience trumps instructor experience in some cases.  This is pretty self-explanatory; however, I would like to point out that to prepare for this, I found myself expanding my internet searches. Initially, I was looking at all best practices for the classroom and for business presentations. Ultimately, I found a lot of time management, leadership training, and business partnerships training to be very valuable to me.
  7. Last but not least – Sheesh! I need to see more of the positive stuff! I intended to only write my happy take-aways from this course, but the timeline is what came out.

Reviewing my timeline, I can summarize my next steps with a promise: On October 1st, I deliver this same day-long course again. I am going to post the same kind of timeline, but I am going to highlight all the good things. And it’s going to be excellent. Sound convincing? 😉

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