Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to create the worst training in history

Have you ever been to a training that made you want to slam a pencil up through your eye-socket to your brain-matter in a desperate suicide?  I have.  It was last week.  I was praying every single day that Wife would go into labor early so I could go home.  (She didn't.  Due date is today.  Wish us luck.)

From this experience, I've developed a how-to guide you might enjoy, and perhaps use in the future.

How to facilitate the most mindnumbingly inefficient training on earth:

1. First, you must start with a get-to-know you activity apt for 7-year-olds, in which all the participants (who are adults with graduate degrees) draw a picture that represents themselves.

2. Ensure that at least two hours are spent going through each and every picture like it's show-and-tell in third grade.

3. When someone comes in late, make sure to have everybody do introductions again. 

4. Make loud, awkward jokes that aren't funny.

5. Mention 478 times the fact that you have ordered catering for this event.  Detail the meals that will be included several times.  Clarify that on the day you eat tacos, you will also have "fixin's" lest anyone think that you have ordered a bunch of tortillas with a few slabs of chicken and nothing else.  Talk about the catering as if the participants have never had a catered lunch in their lives.

6. When explaining the curriculum you are training the group to use, make sure to never actually talk about the information your attendees will be using.  Instead, talk about various nonsensical lists having to do with "openness" and "feedback" and "The three 'C's'".  Never explain how these lists apply in any way to the curriculum.  Refer to the lists constantly at random moments, most especially when asked a question you don't know the answer to.

7. Talk a lot about a vague concept called "fidelity."  Never explain what "fidelity" means, nor what it pertains to.

8. Have three staff persons who have no idea how to present the curriculum you are training about help you with the training.  Make sure they have literally never seen the material.

9. Be sure to give them the opportunity to present chapters of the curriculum as "experts."

10. As they do so, make sure they never once explain the context of what they are teaching.  Instead, allow them to have the group do activities that have no anchor in anything at all.  It's best if these activities make no sense.

11. Make sure the activities involve the use of balls, some of which must be blue.  Make completely innocent reference to blue balls a lot, saying things like "all the guys in the room have blue balls now!"  Leave the balls all over the tables so you can make these comments throughout the entire training.

11. During one of the activities, it would be especially helpful if two of your employees (the one conducting the activity, and the one who just finished doing so) get into an actual argument in front of the entire group.

12. Ensure this bickering is completely asinine and infantile.

13. In the next activity, have the entire group stand in a circle and then share why they don't smoke. 

14. When the last person in the circle, to his credit, admits that he actually does smoke, allow your "expert" employee to lay into him like a meth-addict parent would her disobedient 5-year-old.

15. Make sure that this activity is one in which everyone is not only standing in a circle, but is also each holding a segment of string tying everyone together in an awkward web.  This way, the honest participant who admits to smoking will have no way to escape everybody's furtive glances, and everyone else in the "circle of trust" will try as hard as they can to not look at him in his moment of ignominy, but will fail, having nowhere else to look.

16. After watching her rebuke him, allow your employee to invite the other participants stuck in what has now become "the web of shame" to share their feelings on his smoking habits with the clear intention that they form an actual lynch mob.

17. Allow the entire group, including your employee, to stand in excruciating silence for nearly a minute while nobody says anything to the poor guy because they all realize this activity has become insane.

18. During the debrief you conduct about these activities, allow your employees to get into the same exact fight they were in before, rehashing every detail while the rest of the room sits in uncomfortable silence.

19. Next, make the employee who did the web activity apologize.  Give her the floor so that she can, once again, berate the honest fellow in front of the entire group as a veiled attempt at rectification.

20. Move on without resolving anything.

21. When the attendees start incorporating the word "awesome" into everything they say to stave off boredom and trauma, fail to recognize this insurrection or nip it in the bud like an adult.  Instead, get very confused and misunderstand the situation entirely.  Get so confused for a moment that you honestly think one of the participants is NAMED awesome.  Actually call her awesome, even though her name-tag clearly says Kelly.  Be sure not to notice this hilarious mistake, and do your best to fail to see the entire room laughing in awe at what has just occurred.

22. Repeat these ridiculous antics for three entire days of training.

23. On the last day of training, give the attendees the chance to present classes from the curriculum (which they have not yet seen).

24. Watch in awe as the participants deliver lessons that far exceed your own or those of your employees in quality and relevance.

25. Take this as a personal emblem of the quality of your "training" instead of as a desperate attempt to get something--anything at all--of value out of the 24 hours of nothingness this group has mutually experienced.

26. Make sure one of your "expert" employees sends around a home-made card thanking you for your time and effort, putting the attendees in the uncomfortable position of having to thank someone for something so horrible there are no words to describe it.

27. Read the card in front of everyone, including touching and very lengthy messages like "Thanks!" and "The fixin's were delicious!" and "Awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome job!"

28. Start to cry, you are so touched.

29. Instead of just handing out certificates, have an actual graduation ceremony similar to the one my 4-year-old had from preschool.  Make everyone do standing ovations over and over and over.

30. Close this workshop by having everyone draw another picture of themselves and how they are now different because of the training.  Ensure this takes obscene amounts of time.  Make the entire experience so boring that when your training ends, even though people are getting out early, they feel personally violated and so full of frustration it doesn't even matter.

I wish I had had the nerve to draw this as my final picture.


  1. Oh my heavens. And here I thought our semesterly lab meeting with the paint-a-suncatcher activity was awful! Little did I know things could be SO MUCH WORSE!

  2. Yeah, I didn't think anything got worse than the El Ed meetings of this variety. Thanks for reminding me why I'm a SAHM. (And to think, I've occasionally complained that I use my brain less by staying at home.)

  3. I have to do a presentation in Dec. Thanks for the tips on how NOT to do it!

  4. I am dying. I really wish I could have witnessed this training. So funny.

  5. Wow. I would pay money to go to this training. Its a shame it only lasted three days... Did they have great fixins for every meal?

  6. I think I've been to a training like this. I especially like number 1.

  7. I'm very sorry to see that so many of you have had similar experiences... this kind of injustice has to stop. Maybe we should combine our forces and do a telefundraiser or something.

  8. It's a good thing you posted this because it's pretty much what I had planned for the facilitator "training" meeting on Saturday. Barely avoided a huge catastrophe!

    Sounds so incredibly painful.

  9. I am wondering what the joke was in the awesome section of this blog? I think im offended.

  10. Hey Awesome... wow. How awkward. This is pretty embarrassing. For you.

    Thanks for visiting my blog?

  11. Ya i'm with awesome, there are dozens of us out there!

  12. I am wondering what the joke was in the awesome section of this blog? I think im offended.

  13. On a real note, I think this is your best yet really freaking funny! I came home and dad was laughing at 1000 decibals. Good stuff man! Also somehow the first one reposted? Enjoy the same message!

  14. Thanks Chad (and Dad). You have fulfilled your familial duty by visiting and laughing at 1000 decibels.

    Also thanks for the repeat comment. It means a lot, and will be treasured in my archives.

  15. That was hilarious! I am SO glad I don't work in an office yet!

  16. Oh, I cringed when I read this! I have soooo been at that meeting (well, not exactly THAT meeting, but you get the idea). Why is it that people think that any training is better than none? Really, not all training is good. Oh, and quit making me try to feel my feelings. My feelings have nothing to do with the curriculum. Thanks.
    I feel your pain.
    And congrats on the Weedlet!

  17. Catherine--Thanks! Yeah, not working yet has spared you from this kind of craziness, I'm sure. Lucky.

    Loradona--Exactly! I thought I would be hard-pressed to find a more boring meeting than an education meeting once I quit teaching. Little did I know...

  18. Just found your blog today and had to click over to this post. I do trainings for a living and am really curious about the ball activity--could you write up the instructions for that and send them to me? I might use that in a training next week. Seriously though--funny! Painful but funny.

  19. @Kendall--Thanks! I'm glad this ol' gem in the archives could give someone that does trainings for a living a chuckle ;-) Thanks a lot for stopping by and commenting!

  20. Absolutely hilarious. I have to pass this on to my husband...he's a nurse and has been through some terrible training meetings. He gets through them by making snarky comments to his neighbors. :-)

  21. this made me laugh so hard!! i've never had to sit through one of those since i've never made it into a "real" job that would require something beyond, "here's the telephone, here's your headset. follow the script, we'll be listening."

    but hypothetically, i wonder how hard i'd have to (not) work to pull off something this horrendous. might be fun to try sometime.