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Ten tough training situations and how to deal with each

Ten tough training situations and how to deal with each

If you have been a trainer long enough, you probably are a firm believer of the famous Murphey’s law (Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong) unusual and unexpected events can disrupt your usual training routine. In this post, we will describe 12 tough, challenging situations or if you wish to call them training disasters.  We will describe the situations first so you get a chance to think about them and write down your responses; then check your solutions against the responses that will follow.


1-      You learned that two participants will miss the first session due to an urgent business need and two others will miss day two. What are your possible actions?

2-      You are told that one of your participants will attend your training program right after finishing his night shift at the call center. What actions can you take?

3-      You start off the last session in day 2 and your training program is almost ending and all went well so far. Or so you thought. To your shock, one participant says, “This is all very interesting, but I’m not sure I can use this stuff back on the job.” How would you respond?

 4-      You kicked off your training program and had a great start, you established good rapport and all is going well, 15 minutes after your start, a loud lawn mower begins to operate just outside your window. What course of action do you take?

5-      Before you start off your training program, you take a look at the list of attendees which indicates that one participant is the boss of another. Should you be concerned about this? If so, what should you do?

6-      As you start your class, you realize you forgot the following items: The keys to the adjacent breakout rooms for small group breakout exercises, your post-training evaluation sheets, your flip chart markers. What would you do?

7-      You were told right before you start your first training day that your boss and his line manager will attend the first session. Are there any actions you need to take?

8-      You find out that in your upcoming training program you will have a participant in a wheelchair. Are there any special actions you should be taking?

9-      You learned that most of the participants in your upcoming training program will attend only because of direct orders from their managers. What should you do?

10-   You are assigned to deliver a training program; you did not inquire about the nature of the facilities that turned out to be a medium-sized auditorium with fixed seats. You have several activities where you will need to use small groups. What can you do?


Here are the suggestions on how to handle the challenges:

1-      Missing day two is much more serious than missing the first session on day one. Advise participants who will be missing day two not to attend and reschedule to join the training with another group, as for those who will miss the first session, you can use break time to bring them up to speed as to what was covered and provide them their handouts.

2-      Participant’s attention and alertness is essential to ensure retention of information and benefiting from the training. Consider rescheduling the participant to attend the training program on a later date. If this cannot be done, observe the attendee carefully during day one and assess his/her capability to participate.

3-      This should never happen if you ensure the relevance of your training program by building in enough relevant activities that easily links back to the participant’s roles, action plans of specific steps participants can do back on the job, role plays, useful worksheets or reminder cards and other tools that can help participants link the content and training concepts to their day to day work.

4-       One way to deal with temporary disturbing noise outside the classroom is to take a break or asking the noise makers to stop because you are delivering a training program.  If this cannot be done, then your only choices would be to try and move your class to a quieter location or stop until the noise stops. In all cases you cannot go on with your training amidst a major distracting noise.

5-      In some cases, it may be useful to have an employee and his/her line manager attending the same class for example in team building programs but in general, this type of enrollment should be discouraged. If you have the ability to prevent this simply because many subordinates may be reluctant to speak up freely in the presence of their bosses and certainly will not offer comments which are in disagreement of their boss. However, if the boss has to overshadow the subordinate, at least have them sit apart.

6-      The forgotten items: On the unavailable break-out rooms, use the corners of your regular classroom or delay the group work until you can get the keys during the break. Regarding the flip-chart markers, if there is no chalkboard around, you may be able to use highlighters if available with the flip-chart. Regarding the evaluation sheets, if you can’t print out or make copies during one of the breaks, you can get oral evaluations or provide questions and ask for written responses, you can even ask for ratings (1-5-point scale) on the interest level or similar questions like the ability to use the training back on the job, course value...etc.

7-      This may or may not be a problem, it all depends on your experience, relationship with your boss and so on. This can actually be a great chance for you to show them how skilled you are at delivering the training program. If they interject and contribute their comments, weave their observations into the normal flow. It’s also a good idea to check with your boss in advance to clarify what role he/she will be assuming: observer or participant?

8-      Before the training, check the training facility for wheelchair accessibility. If it’s not wheelchair accessible, consider possible accommodations you can make however, if there are obstacles that cannot be overcome, advise the participant of this and let him/her decide whether he/she wants to attend.

9-      Mention this at your opening remarks. Say something like “I realize that many of didn’t have a choice about attending this training. Nevertheless, let’s all make the best use of this time and try to take away at least one useful concept or technique that you can use back on the job. I promise you to do my best to ensure that the information is useful and relevant to everyone."

10-Use dyads by simply having people turn to their left or right, ask participants to move to the stage, isles, rear or front of the room for stand up small-group work, you can also use the hallway outside the auditorium for stand-up, small group work.

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