How Is a Training Session Like a Baby Shower? (Hint: It’s not a good thing.)

August 11, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Myths Debunked, Training

Dale Ludwig, author, The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations RedefinedI ran across an article online by Christy O’Shoney entitled, “Baby shower games are insane: How our obsession with celebrating moms-to-be got totally out of control.” As I read the article it became clear that what O’Shoney is talking about, what she describes as the recent escalation of forced fun at baby showers, is exactly the sort of thing we talk about concerning the use of pointless games and other supposedly “fun” activities in training sessions.

Here are three of the points O’Shoney made and the similarities they share with training sessions.

  1. Childlike games are played by adult women. This is a basic point. There is a disconnect between the games played and the people playing them. If fun is to be had (and there’s nothing wrong with breaking up the monotony of watching the soon-to-be-mother open gifts), why not make it age-appropriate? When I read this I thought of the ball-tossing exercise I was forced to participate in at a recent training event. As O’Shoney points out, the guests at the shower “are real adults with careers and depth of experience, yet we are determined to infantilize all of them.”
  2. Shower games insult the guests’ intelligence and the prize is a candle or a crappy trinket. Since the games that are brought into training sessions are part of a serious business process, shouldn’t the games, if they’re used, be challenging? Shouldn’t they enrich learning and be worth the investment of time and the good will of the participant? Too often they’re little more than an attempt to bring variety for variety’s sake. And the prizes? Do we really need a candy bar or another logo t-shirt?
  3. I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one with a disdain for these games. O’Shoney mentions the solidarity she often feels with other shower guests over the games they’re forced to play. This happens in the training room as well. When a game is set up, there are always those who are clearly not into it. Are they party-poopers? Are they failing to live up to their training responsibilities? No, they just hate time-wasting, irrelevant forced fun.

Even if you’ve never been to a baby shower (and I never have), you’ll enjoy O’Shoney’s article. To paraphrase her final point, let’s stop kidding ourselves with these games. We are grown people, and we should respect our colleagues enough not to subject them to pointless, silly games.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Work and Fun, In That Order

May 21, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, FAQs, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Training

This is a follow up to a post I wrote earlier this year entitled “Do you really expect me to respond to that?” In that entry I wrote about how the opening of your presentation or training session should not rely on really obvious rhetorical questions or shallow attempts to get the audience excited about your topic. My point was that your job at the front of the room is to set the right tone and communicate context for what’s to come. And that requires respecting the effort you expect the audience to make. Too often, though, people assume that they need to disguise the work to be done as something that is fun.

Presenters—and especially trainers—should never assume that the audience expects the presentation or the training session to be fun. It is, after all, work. It is work to pay attention, to process information and to learn new things. All of that can happen while people are having a good time, but it will not happen just because the person at the front of the room has decided that it’s time for an energizer, an exercise of dubious quality, or, worst of all, a joke or a cartoon.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against fun. But it needs to happen as the work is being done. That means it should have one of these two qualities. First, it can be an unplanned, unforced response to what’s happening in the room. Second, it can be an exercise that is absolutely relevant and necessary that also happens to be fun. In other words, the fun should be a reaction to what’s happening, not an agenda point.

So the next time you’re presenting to or facilitating a group of people remember that the best way to make them happy is to make the process—the work they’re doing for you—as relevant and easy as possible. If the time they spend with you is well spent, they will walk away happy that they were there.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication