I often train in a hotel banquet room where the staff is professional and does a great job with room set-up, but as a trainer, I love to tweak. Fortunately, banquet staff graciously put up with my idiosyncrasies! Here are a few things I’ve learned to do the evening before training to stage a professional, yet comfortable, room for my class:
1. Ensure I have all my materials for the next day. The facility staff usually leaves my shipped materials (participant manuals and other class items) in the training room. I locate and open these boxes the night before, rather than waiting for the morning.
2. Rearrange tables for maximum visibility and comfort. I seldom do major shifting of tables, but I do move them just a little bit one way or another to encourage comfort, visibility, and participation. This also gives me a little psychological “ownership” of the room. If basic classroom set-up is new to you, check out the New Trainer’s Survival Kit or attend the Instructional Techniques for New Instructors workshop – Langevin’s got you covered!
3. Check multimedia projector and laptop. Murphy’s Law (if it can go wrong, it will) has been one of the constants in my life. I like to get everything set for the next day and make sure it all works. I also check to make sure the audio-visuals are clearly observable from all the seats in the room. This is a great time to stow all excess cordage so things look tidy and tripping hazards are minimized.
4. Set chairs in an arc. Usually there are round tables in the room which encourages small-group participation and conversation. However, banquet staff is used to putting chairs evenly spaced around the table. This means half the people in the room will sit with their backs to the front of the room. This is not comfortable for me or the participants. I arrange the chairs so they are in an arc facing forward. The participants generally move their chairs around the tables where they want anyway, but at least this gets us started off well.
5. Position participant materials. I know this is the mildly neurotic side of me coming out, but I like to have everything symmetrically arranged. Participant materials equally spaced and positioned at their seats. Pens facing the same direction. A marker near each tent card. Hand sanitizer on the same side of each table and facing the same direction. Table toys are similarly arranged with the proper colors of Play-Doh at each table. My business card is tucked under the transparent cover of the student packet, of course on the same side of each packet. You only have one chance to make a first impression and I like mine to be a professional one.
6. Arrange instructor materials. I arrange my handouts and leader’s guide so they are accessible when needed and present a neat appearance. I also make sure my tent card is filled out and neatly positioned. If I will be using flipcharts, I prepare as many as possible, including the two I always post – an agenda and a “parking lot.”
Is all this necessary? Probably not, and in some situations I’ve had to sacrifice some of these activities. However, when I do set up a room in just this way, it’s mine. The initial impact on the participants as they walk in the room is positive and, perhaps more importantly, I feel completely ready for the class.