These are all categories of participants I have noticed in my recent spate of trainings and lectures. I enjoy providing training for a variety of reasons not the least of which is it forces me to update and articulate my own knowledge base on an ongoing basis. Additionally training is a good revenue stream to add to clients, teaching, consulting, etc. I enjoy training and provision of continuing education not only for the income but the networking and exposure I get to a variety of other professionals.
All that said, I have noticed several distinct patterns of how we all enter and participate in continuing education so maybe you can see yourself in some of these vignettes:
Nest builders- this category is probably the largest one. They come into a workshop and find a comfortable chair, consider the view they have, where the heating or air conditioning is coming from, lighting and general access. Then they set up a drink, snack, writing material and other personal items that might include everything from a computer to an assortment of purchased items from the conference exhibit hall. They meet and greet others but stay firmly in their chosen nest.
Outliers- These folks need to be distinguished from “latecomers” (see below) because they are not the same thing. They often come quite early- but mostly to snag the very last row of seats. They may also be a nest builder but are slightly different. The focus is on being in the very back- some say they need to get up and stretch or walk, some don’t say anything but it’s clear they need to get up and leave the room, sometimes not to return- or maybe just for frequent breaks- not clear to me. But the focus for the outlier is on a back row seat. I have been an outlier in my life, mostly because I don’t want to have people looking at my back. Call me neurotic but distance is comfortable for me and I am far sighted too and feel I can see best from back there versus the front where things seem too big or blurry…
Busy person- These attendees are characterized by the flurry of activity they keep up throughout the whole training. They may be taking copious notes or noisily typing on their laptop. They may be writing the great American novel- I really can’t tell. They just stay busy the whole time. Opening up candy, rifling through their tote bag, texting, reading, you name it. Busy, busy, busy. The worst sub-category of “busy folks” is “talkers”. Please don’t be one. For someone with mild attention deficit like me it is very distracting for side conversations to go on, no matter how whispered they are. Again, I confess to having been a “busy person” many times. Again, being a speaker has re-aligned my thinking and behavior.
Latecomers- I don’t care if you close and lock the door on any presentation – there will always be a latecomer. They don’t mind knocking on the door, interrupting, and stepping over or in front of everyone to find their seat. Maybe they have some great reason for being late- but it escapes me. Can you tell this is not my favorite? But I have to admit that I too have been a latecomer at times. Being a speaker has broken me of that for good. It is very distracting.
Last (but not least) are the Sleepers- You know them. You and I both have been them. A long week of clients, extra work and hours to be sure you have time to attend the training. Getting up early to drive to the workshop. Then a darkened room with slides showing and a droning voice up front. Sleep takes over! It really is hard to resist, especially when paired with a post-lunch coma that sets in after eating more than you should “because this is like a day off” or something. Sleepers, please note: everyone else sees you sleeping. Sometimes they giggle or point! When you snore it’s especially funny and we all notice that jerk you do when you almost fall over. My advice? Find a nice comfy chair in the hotel lobby and give in to your needs. Going to training isn’t all about learning- maybe sometimes it’s about getting some much needed rest. A few tips for potential sleepers (like me): cold drinks with lots of ice to sip on, colored markers to color around your notes with (but don’t become a “busy folk” in the process), change sitting position a lot, practice good posture, ask questions of the speaker (this is the BEST hint as it will really keep you alert).
Whatever your way is at a training, embrace it, learn about it,live it. We can’t be perfect participants any more than I can be a perfect presenter. Somehow we get through it all and as I tell everyone in my workshops- “at the very least today, I hope you get some enjoyment and relaxation out of this”. Really!
Joan Phillips is a counselor, art therapist, and marriage and family therapist. She maintains a private practice and teaches at the University of Oklahoma.