This year I have delivered more face-to-face workshops than I have done since I was a fledgling trainer back in the late 1970s running development programmes for American Express managers. True, these are short workshops, whereas way back then every course lasted a week and involved a stay in a luxurious hotel in an exotic city location, but the dynamics haven’t changed all that much. I know how ironic all this must seem when you consider that the workshops I deliver relate to the use of new learning technologies, but that’s the situation I find myself in and I’m reasonably comfortable with the irony. Donald Clark may be bored with F2F apologists but, in most cases, I would stand by the decision to run these workshops face-to-face, even if these decisions were usually made by others. I’m going to come back to why I feel face-to-face is sometimes the right choice in another post; for now, I’d like to focus on the effort involved.
Basically, I’m at last beginning to respect the work put in by teachers and to understand the rationale behind their short hours and long holidays. There are not many jobs in which you have to perform in front of a new audience every day; in which you have to earn respect from unfamiliar faces; in which you put yourself on the line through the use of feedback forms; in which you frequently have to cope with demotivated, resentful or dominating individuals without losing your temper; in which you can’t tune out for a second. And before you say that surely this depends on the style of training that you deliver, then I’d maintain that it doesn’t matter one jot whether you’re the ‘sage on the stage’ or the ‘guide on the side’, it’s still hard. In fact I’d probably argue that non-directive, discovery-orientated and exploratory strategies are much more tiring and stressful to facilitate because you have so much less control over outcomes. Someone delivering a lecture knows pretty well exactly what they are going to say, how long this will take and what the results are likely to be.
Trainers may not always do a good job: they may irritate or patronise, they may hog the attention, they may insist on your participation in embarrassing group activities. But they have had the courage to put themselves out there and to risk the consequences. Not everyone can say that.