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About That Time I Took a Training Course at a Funeral Home...

The following is - incredibly and unbelievably - a true story about my unique experience with a training vendor.

In 2010, I was managing a very small training team, and our primary focus was on developing and supporting the training we provided to our external customers. So I began scoping out potential vendors to help us support the growing request for employee training. I found a Coaching Skills course offered by, well let's just call the company:

"Some guy's First Name, Some guy's Last Name" Seminars.

And the all-day course was only $79.

Red flag #1

$79 for 8 hours of training - that's less than $10 an hour! What a deal, right? Stay tuned.

So I registered and, on the day of the training, made the 3-hour drive to Birmingham, AL from Atlanta. I arrived at the training location - the "Birmingham Training Center" - about 1 hour before the start of the workshop.

I was immediately struck by the exterior of the building which gave off the vibe of....well, having been a funeral home in the not too distant past. That feeling was confirmed as soon as I set foot in the door.

Red flag #2

I'm about to take a training course in a former funeral home. But what a great deal, right?

As I entered the larger room (formerly the chapel), I was greeted at the registration table and asked to fill out a brief questionnaire (e.g., my current role and why I was attending the workshop - a question I was really starting to ask myself!).

Having completed the questionnaire, I stepped further into the room to look for a seat. As I did, I glanced to the back of the room to find the refreshment table. If only I still had that picture, but it is long gone - a victim of the Blackberry to iPhone transition.

Let me try to describe the refreshment table as best I can: imagine a 6-ft table, covered in a flowery one-time-use vinyl tablecloth. Now, on top of that table, picture a 5-gallon orange Home Depot drink cooler, with a single stack of 4 oz. Dixie paper cups next to it. No kidding.

Red flag #3

Wow, they went all out on the refreshments! Oh wait, this workshop was only $79. We're lucky to have this awesome cooler of tap water, right? They're keeping the accessories minimal to focus on the content!

I bypassed the water and found a seat in the back. Subconsciously, I think I was plotting the easiest escape route from the room. Exactly the mindset we want our participants to have when they enter our training, right? If only it got better from there.

About 15 minutes before the start, an older lady approached my seat and introduced herself as the instructor. She asked me why I was here today, and I told her I was evaluating the quality of the program to see if it might fit with our future training needs.

She then asked me about current role, and when I shared my experience as a instructional designer, facilitator and training manager, she replied with the following, out-of-left-field comment:

"Well, if at any point during the day you would like to teach part of the course, please let me know."

In case you didn't catch that...

Red flag #4

"Well, if at any point during the day you would like to teach part of the course, please let me know."

There are some things that simply should never be said...or asked. Like the time my (then) 10-yr old son ordered pork ribs at a local eatery and the waitress asked, "How would you like his (pork) ribs cooked?" Uh....well-done, thank you.

It takes a lot to throw me for a loop, but giving me the option to teach part of YOUR workshop...I really didn't know what to do with that.

So, what's my point in telling this tale? Stuff like this happens, and unfortunately it happens under the guise of "training", which reflects on all of us who work as training professionals.

  • Was the course engaging? I really don't remember, as I was way too distracted by the red flags I have described.

  • Was it a memorable training experience? Absolutely, but in the worst way possible.

  • Was it unexpected? I forgot to mention that this instructor's spouse was a well-known impersonator of a famous country singer. So yes, every break was unexpectedly filled with music and slide shows of said spouse.

Now it's your turn. What's your worst training experience? Can you top mine? Got a training course that needs my help? Contact me today.

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