A classroom where adults learn well is not all that different from a classroom where children learn well. First you need the basics: Even and comfortable lighting, well-circulated air, comfortable seating, and convenient note-taking surfaces. Beyond that, there are the tools and techniques that help make the most of the time at hand. Here are a handful of ideas that fall into that latter category, six essentials that I've learned to ask for each time I prepare for a training.
reathing Room.I always ask for breakout space. It may be standard for larger meetings but is often overlooked for smaller training events. An adult can get as fidgety as a five-year-old. The only difference is that an adult is likely to fidget more with his mind than with the person beside him. (Though that happens too.) Well-timed breaks, or activities within the training that change the pace of the delivery, help to optimize the effectiveness of the meeting.
Healthy Breaks.To avoid torpid stares of would-be nappers, I try to keep the refreshments light, and low in protein and processed sugar. I request fruit, fruit juices, and whole-grain baked goods because they tend to minimize distracting surges and drains in energy. This doesn't mean I am opposed to caffeinated beverages. On the contrary, fresh, hot coffee and a variety of teas are staples.
Rooms that Work. The arrangement of the room can help bring out the best in a meeting. Ask for a setup that meets your needs. Don't settle for regimented rows of straight tables if your training is about teamwork or relies on creativity and interaction. Try freer arrangements: circular tables or zig-zag patterns of straight tables.
Up-to-Date Projection. I am thoroughly convinced that no technology training environment is complete without computer projection. It used to be that "foils," or overhead projector slides, comprised the most portable of presentations. Next came LCD panels, then color LCD panels. Coupled with powerful presentation software like Microsoft's PowerPoint, this technology made inexpensive, flexible presentations possible. Today, this wonder has improved further still, combining the projector and the display panel into a single portable, durable, and, lately, affordable projection unit. Not only does a video projector make it possible to give presentations right from a PC, but because the content of technical training so often resides on or is piped through a PC or laptop, the trainer gets the extra bang of being able to jump between applications (say, PowerPoint and the very software package that is the subject of training) in this same projection medium. The icing on the cake is that the entire class can follow along easily as an instructor works through an exercise.
Productivity Support. The chalkboard isn't what it used to be, either. There are several brands of dry-erase "whiteboard" out there that are capable of printing to paper what's written on them or, even better, delivering digital representations of what's written on them to a computer. While these do not have the broad utility of the beloved projection units, they can be especially useful in technical meetings whose content is evolving. When a record of the work-in-progress can help to make the next training more productive, I ask for one of these.
Connectivity.More and more trainers require analog phone line access in the meeting space. So often now, the subject of the technology training is software or hardware which lives on, or is accessible through, a network, perhaps even the Internet itself. An analog line makes it possible to bring the classroom to cyberspace inexpensively and reliably.
With bright, airy space, well-nourished participants, flexible presentation technology, and a well- arranged room, the circumstances are optimized for memorable and effective sessions.