We need to consider the purpose of the training. the facilitators’ preference. the content of the training, and of course any limitations the location has.
In this video, I outline some of the layouts and why you should, or should not use them.
I would love to hear your views.
– Hi Everyone, Mike Morrison Here.
Isn’t it interesting I put a video up just a couple of days ago about training room layouts and their particular uses, and it seems that some people misunderstood?
So what I thought it would be worth doing is to go through a longer video showing what training room layouts are available and perhaps what we might use them for.
First of all, as trainers, as learning designers, we need to think about who is the layout for.
Is it for the trainer? Or is it for the learner? Is it for the facilitator? Is it for part of the event? Is it for the whole event?
Sometimes we get hung up on particular layouts in particular rooms. Of course, sometimes rooms are laid out in a particular way, purely because of the numbers of people that are available or that require training or that communication. We need to be really careful about what is our purpose. Why are we here? What is it that we wanna get out of this event? So as designers, we need to think about what are the types of interactions we want, how is it that people are gonna learn, what is the psychology involved?
What is it that the facilitator or trainer needs to be able to do in that space? So where do we need the focus of attention? Do people need to look at some sort of projection screen? Do people need to look at computers and manage their own content? Do people need to interact in groups? Where do we want the focus of attention to be one of the key things that we need to think about in room design? And maybe we change rooms between certain sessions or at least change the style of the room and the layout of the room. So what is it we’re going to want to achieve? Now here are a number of traditional training room layouts.
The U shape, whereas we can see there, everyone’s sitting around. Everyone can see the front or the learning content that the facilitator may have. Most people can see each other’s faces, if they are going to engage. So it’s a useful way of doing pairs work or threes work. It’s not hugely collaborative beyond that. But it’s great for the trainer trying to share information.
Now, of course, if you’ve got lots of people, then maybe theatre style is the only way. Now whether that be a conventional theatre-style or modified theatre style, it doesn’t really matter. The simple fact is with theatre-style you’re not going to get the interactions. You may get a little bit between the presenter and the audience on a one-on-one basis. And you might be able to get people to work in pairs on either side of them. But beyond that, it’s not really practical for engagement purposes.
The traditional classroom or conference session where people are sat behind desks in rows can work very well for some things. It can work great for IT programs where people need to be able to see the front, and what they’re concentrating on is their own content. It’s reasonably space-efficient. It does allow for a little bit of pair based working. But beyond that it really is a traditional way for content to come from the front to the learners. A variant on that is the herringbone. People can see slightly better because they’re not necessarily looking at the back of somebody’s head. There’s always a gap. So the tables are aligned in such a way that you’re not square onto the back of somebody’s head, but you are seeing the front.
Both the classroom and herringbone are quite useful for IT type training because it does allow the facilitator to be able to walk around and see what people are doing.
Now when you’re doing something a bit larger and you need people to be able to interact and collaborate together a cabaret-style, either using rectangular tables or round tables, can work really well. You can leave an empty chair so that that way the front of the tables face some sort of projection screen or front stage. So that way information can be shared, but the key focus here with cabaret is about group working.
It’s about group dynamics. But what, of course, it does do is it does build teams on those tables. So if we’re not careful as facilitators, one of the things that it can do is to create a them and us. Not just between the facilitator and the tables, but between each of the tables as being separate teams. We need to be aware of that when we’re using this type of design. But it is good for really large scale stuff. It also does allow the trainer or facilitator to be able to go round and visit groups and join groups for parts of interactions.
So cabaret style, of course, has its place.
One of the other ways that we do things are these sort of closed circle shapes, where we’re sitting around something. Now it does cause some problems. It does allow people to be able to see each other reasonably well. It does allow pairs and threes working. However, if you’ve got any sort of visual aid to show somewhere, ultimately there will be a front of the room. And some people will have their back to that. And that can be quite uncomfortable for people. There is some debate over whether there should be a hole in the table or whether it’s a solid table works better. I personally, I think it depends on what it is you’re trying to achieve and how you’re trying to get there. So think about these things, but not just think about the physical room and the space. But what is it you really want people to be able to do with each other and between each other.
Now one of the most controversial designs is the boardroom, the traditional meeting room tables. These can work reasonably well. Not everyone can see everyone. There does, obviously, is head of a table somewhere. If you’re doing presentations, most people can see those, even if they are ducking around other people’s heads to see elements.
One of the things that’s quite often overlooked for boardroom is that boardroom is actually used in the workplace. Very few of the other layouts are actually used. And as trainers, quite often we get criticized for doing things in the training room not facilitated back to the workplace. Now one of the advantages, I’m not saying that it overrides everything else on all the other designs, is that if you’re running training on meeting skills, presentation skills, something like that that is a traditional business skill, then learning that inside an environment that reflects the type of environment and space that participants are going be able to deliver and use those skills in, can be a useful step.
So please do not underestimate the value of people exploring and experimenting in the spaces in which that they’re going to operate.
All too often, throughout the history of learning and development and training, training has been criticized for not reflecting real workplace. In fact, many participants go on a training course and say it’s great in the training room, doesn’t happen back at the workplace. Particularly for white collar type work, a boardroom is the workplace. So it’s up to us to use that appropriately. Similar to boardroom, of course, the U shape can be a meeting type room as well.
And for most training, it is different between the U shape and the boardroom. I suspect that 70%, 80% of all training that occurs inside businesses happens in this, in one of these two shapes. Not least because they’re relatively space-efficient, and many businesses do not have the space for cabaret-style spaces. Please be careful though. If you’re gonna do cabaret, and you are space limited, it does mean that it’s sometimes difficult for people to move between tables and groups. That in itself inhibits the training.
So the message I’d like to leave you with is this. There are lots and lots of training room designs out there. The key thing is to think about why is it that you’re using a particular layout. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses?
Think about the psychological advantages and disadvantages of using some of the formats that you’re forced to do so. Quite often, it’s just mechanical. It’s a space, the size and space of the room that you have. If that is what it is, then fine. We need to accept that. We need to be agile. We need to be flexible.
However, we also need to be aware as trainers and facilitators that if these things are negative, we need to embrace that and share that with our learners. And help them to make the most of the situation. So this has been a pretty quick snapshot through the various learning and training room layouts that are available to us.
Please, this is not a definitive guide.
I’m sure many of you will find other layouts. In fact, I’d love you to add to the comments below, other layouts that you use and what you find them useful for.
What I would say is, make sure that it is a deliberate thought in the use of the layout that you have and that you’re aware of the pluses and minuses of using it.
My name is Mike Morrison. Have a great week. Thanks for watching