I have been attending workshops and training sessions over the period of 30 years of my working.
From the initial days of flip charts and white boards to the current powerpoints and multimedia – I can say I have seen them all.
Few things have changed but most have not. As a compulsive observer of human behavior, I have categorized the classroom into the following, well, categories!
The Poor Presenter:(PP)
He/she is the only person who is alert throughout the day of the presentation. Having done the drill several numbers of times he/she might probably do it blindfolded. Either the presenter is really passionate about the contents he/she is delivering or is a consummate actor, though I tend to believe the latter is true.
The presentations are usually textbookish, with hardly any link to what actually happens on a shop floor.
It is more like “If you ride on a two wheeler, the chances are that it is a scooter” – How do you find fault with that logic? But what value addition does it add to a problem that you face every day?
Barring few, most have served on production lines in the past and it is difficult to believe that they believe everything they say.
Now to the motley crew that is the audience. The following categories may not be the final exhaustive list, you are free to add another type that you have identified that I missed out. Only one thing is common. Not one of them would stay in the room if they were given a choice.
The Surreptitious Mobile Type:(SMT)
This specimen is most prevalent in today’s scenario. They did not exist when I started out in the pre-mobile era. They keep their mobile on silent mode. The mobiles are usually held below the desk, or on the side of the note pad, on the table, where they keep fiddling with it. They check news, messages, notifications, mails, tweets and endless diversions that are available. They adroitly distribute their time between carefully devoting their full attention to their mobile and falsely looking interested in the lecture. In order to not arouse any suspicion, they periodically make notes on their note pads. None of which will make any sense to them when they read it a few days later.
The Blatant Mobile Types:(BMT)
Same as before. The only difference is they can get away due to their position. This type is usually the higher hierarchy or the clever ones who occupy the rear of the hall. In case the seating positions are pre-decided, then the lucky ones who are seated at the back. The second category of the rear benchers will have to be on the alert as sometimes the poor presenter tends to walk around the room while giving the lecture.
The Questioning Type:
This type gives the poor presenter an orgasm. This type can further be divided into three sub-categories.
First is The Genuine Questioning Type:(GQT)
This person has an urge to ask questions. On any topic. And almost on each slide. The questions can be challenging, demanding, interesting and sometimes outright ridiculous. But question he will. Sometimes the poor presenter will not understand his question. He will be asked to repeat his question.
There has never been a case in the recorded history, where the poor presenter has replied “I do not know”.
With his back against the wall, under relentless questioning from this type, he usually resorts to the time-tested escape route “ we have to look more deeply to your site specific conditions before we can reach a conclusion”.
This questioning type is unusually energetic and even after such a snub rebounds with another question two slides later.
Second is The question To Impress Type:(QTIT)
This person has no interest in the answer. His job is over when the question has been asked. His audience is not the poor presenter, but his superior who is present in the room. He even looks at his boss while asking the questions. He never bothers with the answer given. He will look at the poor presenter with an unwavering gaze with periodical nodding of his head and when the answer is delivered, will curtly say “OK” and bend down to write something on his notepad.
He is not so active like the genuine questioning type; he usually asks four or five questions over the entire day.
The poor presenter is happy with this type as he is easier to deal with.
And the third is The Tangential Type:(TT)
No one understands what he is asking. To the unassuming public, it sounds like “explain the chemical reaction between hydro chloric acid and sodium salt” to a lecturer teaching the fundamentals of English grammar.
The poor presenter usually asks him to explain his question once or twice. With each round in trying to make it more lucid, it gets murkier.
Finally it is left to the senior most person present to diffuse it politically by saying something along the following lines “I think it is better that you approach him after the lecture to have a detailed discussion one on one”
The rest of the room sighs with relief. The poor presenter is usually petrified at the proposed round of the discussion, but it never comes to pass. The tangential type withdraws into his shell after this and most of the time forgets to pursue the proposal. This type normally has one or two questions per day.
Next on the list is The Wise Ones:
This type has to offer explanations and modified views and simpler versions (in their pigment of imagination) of what is being presented.
This category has two sub-types.
The first is The Explaining Type:(ET1)
This type answers a question (by any of the three categories mentioned above) before the faculty can. They have this compulsion to answer any questions. They never ask questions. They know everything ! At the end of their answer ,the faculty finds it easier to skip answering and move on, though the tendency in the faculty to challenge his answer is fairly high.
But they feel it is not worth pursuing.
The second type is The Elaborating Type:(ET2)
This type waits for the faculty to finish answering.
Then they start “If I can add a little to what you said…” and they ramble on assuming they are making it much simpler and honestly believing that they are offering a more lucid explanation than what was said by the presenter. Most of the times it is pure balderdash. But they are so full of themselves to realize this.
The last category is The Neutral Agents:(NA)
These are a peach. They have this brilliant capacity to just merge into a crowd. No one notices them, they never run the risk of being singled out by the lecturer to offer a viewpoint. They never ask a question. They don’t make a sound. They are like ghosts. The only time they move is to get a coffee or a snack. Silently they finish most of their regular day’s work without anyone noticing. They are the only ones who are usually the freshest when the day ends. They are the darlings of the top management too. They can be selected for any course ranging from Advanced statistical techniques to safety regulations to communication effectiveness!