Make the Most of Training Sessions

My son called on his cell phone this week from the speaker’s podium. He was getting ready to keynote a conference, when he was asked to take roll for more than 150 attendees before he presented. He was concerned that the 20 to 30 minutes of time it would take to call roll would eat into the time available for his presentation and that he might offend any attendees whose names he happened to mispronounce. He also wanted to make sure the attendees and his client got their money’s worth as it cost about $3,500 to bring him in as a presenter.

I had to tell him that I had not encountered this one before. I have had a front row attendee with a heart problem collapse during a keynote; a myriad of technical problems; and, once, lightning struck a building I was teaching in, but this situation was new to me. My son and the conference coordinator ended up resolving the problem by having staff familiar with most attendees silently check off the names of those in attendance before calling the names of 20 or so they did not know on sight.

This episode caused me to reflect on the situations our analysts have encountered through the years. Some clients do a great job in maximizing the benefits of internal and external trainers, while others occasionally inadvertently undermine effectiveness of training sessions with simple yet crucial mistakes. I thought those readers who help organize training sessions, or who become involved with organizing conferences, might find a few suggestions to be helpful:

Try to avoid:

    • underestimating how long the registration process will take;

    • using preliminary speakers who are likely to run over time;

    • making assumptions about speaker needs for audiovisual support;

    • forgetting to check all audiovisual equipment well before the first presentation starts;

    • inadvertently misrepresenting what the presenter will cover;

    • causing speakers problems with their introductions/speaker bios;

    • using presenters whom you are not confident in (Check out presenters carefully. Remember, you may have to prove in court someday that your trainer has the appropriate qualifications to provide the type of safety training they delivered.); and

    • giving away powerful endings during a speaker’s introduction.


    • double check times, dates, and training site location with all presenters well ahead of the training date;

    • schedule presenters well in advance;

    • unless it is mandatory, advertise the training far more than you think necessary;

    • consider arranging for backup AV equipment;

    • ask for a written introduction for each speaker and have the person introducing them review it;

    • make sure someone who will be present during all presentations is familiar with lighting controls;

    • verify that all handout materials will be ready at the time of each presentation;

    • double check that the facility will be open and all lighting and AV controls unlocked ahead of time for the presentation;

    • check with attendees at the end of one of the early breaks to see if they are comfortable in terms of temperature; and

    • make sure suitable restroom, parking, and dining will be available for attendees.

A little extra preparation will go a long way to ensure training sessions are effective and smoothly run. Skilled presenters learn to make use of every single minute of a training session. Make sure everyone involved with coordination of training sessions understands that being off task by as little as five or ten minutes can significantly disrupt a high-quality presentation. Make the best use of the time of every presenter — and, more importantly, every attendee — by paying attention to detail when organizing training sessions. At the end of the session, you will be glad you did.

Michael S. Dorn has been a full-time campus safety practitioner for 24 years and now serves as the senior public safety and emergency management analyst for Jane’s Consultancy. He can be reached at [email protected]

About the Author

Michael S. Dorn has helped conduct security assessments for more than 6,000 K-12 schools, keynotes conferences internationally and has published 27 books including Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters. He can be reached at