Thursday, October 24, 2019

Be Prepared when technology fails!

Upon hearing the Scout motto ‘Be Prepared’, someone asked Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell the predictable question, “Prepared for what?”.

Baden-Powell wrote that to ‘Be Prepared’ means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.”

So, as learning and development (L&D) professionals, what are the things that can be prepared in terms of mind body and spirit that may just be a lifeline if technology lets us down?

I may be at risk of sounding too obvious when I say this but, I recommend a USB storage device (or similar) with a copy of any files that are likely to be needed. If technology fails and a laptop decides to stop working, there may well be a someone available who turns up with a laptop that you could borrow for the duration of the day. A simple USB device can literally save a training course.

So, what happens if there is no lucky break and access to a laptop isn’t available?

Before I go any further, it’s important to understand exactly why a laptop is needed to deliver training in the first place. I would suggest that ordinarily most trainers use their laptops to primarily show PowerPoint slides which support their learning event?

If considered correctly, the slide set for any training event should be designed to provide visual aids and therefore it shouldn’t be a script for your training. I always strongly encourage anyone using a slide set to print off at least one paper copy as this has a couple of really useful benefits if technology fails.

Firstly, you can use your paper copy to replicate most slides on a flipchart sheet, even if you’re not the best artist in the world! If slides are purely visual aids or ‘sign posts’ for learners, this should be a fairly easy task. An additional benefit is that any slide notes can still be referenced by the trainer.

Secondly, if a paper copy of the slides are available there may well be an opportunity to photocopy them, which can then be shared with course participants as an alternative to ‘flip charting’ them. The key point here is that a little bit of forward thinking means a trainer can be prepared and ultimately save a disaster from happening.

I know of a recent scenario when a trainer I know well was half way through a training course and the building suffered a power outage. They simply reverted to their paper copy for any slides they needed to reference and continued to run the session with little impact, interestingly the other trainers in the building seemed a little unsure what to do and this was clearly observable by their course participants… If only they had been prepared! Remember this saying ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’

Whilst there will always be scenarios that we can’t plan for, with a bit of thought and creativity there is always room for additional proactive measures, even if it’s a simple as carrying a spare cable.

Remember the definition of being prepared according to Baden Powell was “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.”

Our main priority as Learning and Development (L&D) professionals should always be our course participants, so we owe them the best experience we can offer, despite set-backs. If we are prepared as much as we can be, we are likely to continue to demonstrate the actions and behaviours that suggest we are in a state of readiness to deal with the unexpected.

More practical ways to ensure technology is on our side is seeking opportunities to check a training room beforehand. This of course isn’t always a practical option but it is good practice if possible.

One of the things that I’ve experienced myself that can throw a training course ‘off-kilter’ can be something as simple as more participants turning up than expected and not having enough resources such as workbooks and handouts. Whilst this isn’t specifically a technological problem, it can soon become one if we need to start emailing or using technology to send or receive additional files. Situations like this can easily eat into precious learning time too. Again this is where the trusty USB stick and a bit of forethought can work wonders. Whilst replicating an exact copy of the course materials may not be possible on the fly, it may well be possible to print off temporary versions until we can furnish our unexpected participant(s) with an original version of anything they need. Of course a trainer can always have a couple of spare copies of everything just in case…. In an ideal world yes, most of us know that this isn’t always practical for a variety of reasons.

We are seeing more and more interactive internet based tools entering the training room, such as Kahoot and Mentimeter to name but two. These tools are brilliant if used correctly within a training course and it’s a fun way of embedding learning… Until the internet goes down. Having alternatives planned that don’t rely on the internet is always a good idea and ensures the trainer is always in control of such situations. Preparing for the ‘what ifs’ in such circumstances can be time well spent.

So, in keeping with our theme of ‘Be prepared’, here is my top ten list of things any trainer, (experienced or a raw recruit) can do to ensure they are aligned to the words of Baden Powell and “always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty”.

Here is a quick recap on what you can do to ‘Be prepared’:

  1. Have a separate, portable back-up copy of the files you may need (bearing in mind your internal IT security policy)
  2. Consider laptop ‘alternatives’ to cover an unexpected malfunction or unavailability
  3. Think about the content of slide sets and their purpose, ask yourself “Can I replicate this easily on a flipchart if I can’t show these slides”?
  4. Think practical – Consider ‘What if’ questions, i.e. What if more participants arrive than I was expecting?
  5. Slides and slide notes are always available if a printed copy has been prepared
  6. Spare cables i.e. HDMI, Serial, charger leads can save the day!
  7. Familiarise yourself with the nearest photo copier, just in case you need it
  8. Have alternative activities prepared, in case you can’t use web based exercises and activities
  9. Practice your flipchart artistry, you never know when you may need it!
  10. Know what your options and alternatives are wherever possible

So, like all good scouts, all trainers should “always be in a state of readiness, in mind and body to do your duty”.

Learn more about our Learning and Developing training courses by contacting TAP Learning today.

Author: Steve Pearson