As corporate trainers, many times we are asked to facilitate a session for a department or group outside of our regular audience. Your boss Marc strides into your office and asks you to do the “Time Management” workshop for the team in Albuquerque because “The folks here in Vegas saw real results since the session you did last quarter.”

The Vegas team knows you. You’ve worked with them, either as the onboarding trainer or in various sessions through the years. They understand your rhythms and idiosyncrasies. Heck, they’re familiar with your smell. Of course they responded to the time management workshop. All the shared experiences in the room made every story, every scenario, every inside joke, relevant.

Now it’s time to take the show on the road

Now it’s time to take the show on the road. You’re a professional, so you go through the proper diligence to understand the New Mexico group. Before you even reach out to the sales manager there, you’ve already got several Breaking Bad references ready to incorporate into their session. You’re sure that once you understand the business goals for that group, and ideally the objectives are similar to the Vegas team, you’ll make a few adjustments and book the flight to the ABQ.

You call the Aburquerque on-site manager to prepare and the conversation takes a strange turn when they say, “We appreciate you coming to help us. Ever since Hank and Steve had the grandfather clock incident, the team has been lethargic. I heard your session was amazing. We could use the pick me up.”

She then proceeds to mention all the differences between the two locations. “We’re all running Windows XP. Our break room serves as our conference room, so you’ll have some ambient noise as we’re training. Especially the train that runs every 45 minutes. And our GM’s dog Gus wanders through  the building but is really friendly once he gets to know you.”

We're not in Kansas anymore

Whenever we find ourselves in strange surroundings, with people who are vastly different from what we’re used to, the key is to stay true to time-tested principles of adult learning. We shouldn’t let the uniqueness of the group distract from the business objectives. The goal is still the same: “At the end of this session, attendees will be able to…”

Conduct a proper your pre-session analysis. Seek to understand the specific challenges attendees face. What do they bring to the session? Our job is to meet them where there are, intellectually and emotionally. We could find out Gus’s favorite doggie treat. Eliminate the excessive animation and video content in the pre-session materials. Change the cloud-based games to paper-based activities. Incorporate the train as a signal it’s time to break or switch activities.  Oh, and ask about Steve and Gus. Just so you don’t inadvertently spark an unnecessary conflict.

Find out as much as you can about the session participants. Use social media. Ask preference question in a pre-session survey. Send them your information as well. Invite them to connect with you online. They won’t be strangers when you finally meet them. At least not as much.

Stepping out of our comfort zone is daunting, even for experienced facilitators. The key is to remember your training. You will make it out alive. What are some of the strangest environments you’ve experienced as an L & D presenter? Leave a comment below and be entered into our monthly prize giveaway.

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