Why do we need a map?

Definition of map: a diagrammatic representation of an area of land or sea showing physical features, cities, roads, etc.

Synonym for the word map:   a plan

Do we really need a plan or a roadmap of the path we plan to take?  If we have already decided the destination, is it necessary to have the pathway defined.  Possibly – yes.  Do I recommend it in the workplace training class – absolutely.  Why?

Pitstops and Detours

In my experience, each training seminar, workshop, conference, course or presentation is different.  No two are alike.  The content may be the same, but the environment, the technology, the audience, and the materials simmer together to make a unique event – every time.  As if that were not enough reason to plan ahead, or to map out the route to a successful learning event, one only needs to recall the possible pitstops, the interesting side roads, and the encounter of a construction roadblock or two.

“If the student fails to learn, the teacher fails to teach.”


Do we have enough time to take every pitstop or explore every side road and unpaved road off the main trail?   Do we have an alternate route in case of roadblocks and extended delays? How will the class be delivered successfully to the audience in the event of a problem?  What topics on the agenda do we plan to deliver?  Which topics can easily be shortened in the interest of time and still ensure that knowledge has been transferred?  Having a map (roadmap) for the learning, is like having a disaster recovery plan for your laptop in the event of damage. (remember that coffee spill on the keyboard last year?)

Is It necessary to plan?

For the novice trainer or presenter, it may seem unnecessary to plan ahead for the unexpected in the classroom or speaking engagement.  The experienced trainer or presenter has a treasure trove of stories recalling escalating classroom disasters, unexpected VIP observers, equipment failures and extended side conversations that can occur in any given course.  However, some trainers manage to stay on track, complete the learning on time, engage the audience, and whose participants seem to produce the desired skills growth.  Many control the course’s success by creating a class plan of action – a class roadmap.  This roadmap anticipates and addresses the side roads and the pitstops.  In fact, several items built in to the planned agenda.

The 14th Floor Evacuation

During the course of an eight hour training class in New York City, while conducting a class on policies and procedures, we had an unexpected and unplanned fire emergency – a true emergency not a drill.  During the evacuation, everyone was instructed to leave everything in the classroom and exit immediately down the stairwells. At the end of the street we met, we counted heads to verify everyone had successfully evacuated.  Unfortunately, the damage was extensive and we were not allowed to return to the building that afternoon. Given the lateness of the afternoon, we dismissed class.

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The male attendees of the class had their wallets and keys in their pockets and could easily depart. Several of the women, however, had followed instructions and left all their belongings in the 14th floor classroom, including their purses containing identification, hotel room keys, money and credit cards. As a result, several female attendees had to make alternate travel arrangements  for the evening until we were able to access the classroom the next day.

As a result of that experience, all subsequent classes have included a brief statement regarding emergency evacuation plans, specifically defining what to grab upon departure.   This single enhancement to my personalized “training class roadmap” has served me well in several subsequent emergencies within the training room.

Roadmap, FAQs, Lessons Learned

Even with the class roadmap, the experienced instructor has learned how to read the roadside signage – to actively assess the temperature of the audience, listening and observing the body language.   The experienced trainer will proactively question the audience regarding their individual expectations and prior knowledge to gauge existing skill sets.  This knowledge allows the trainer to proactively reset expectations if needed and pivot the agenda topics if necessary.   In addition to the roadmap, other valuable tools include the “frequently asked questions” (FAQs).  If the FAQs are available, experienced instructors review the FAQs prior to starting the class.

Another valuable “roadmap” in the workplace training environment is the “lessons learned” database.   Ideally, the “lessons learned” documentation includes details regarding the challenges, disasters, successes in previous learning, with details regarding how each were managed.    As tools in the hands of a replacement trainer unfamiliar with the content, these resources enable the instructor to pivot quickly to changing conditions or to maintain control of a classroom environment and while continue the  knowledge transfer can occur.