For the past 11 years, my job as a technical trainer has taken me from Alaska to Cuba, with many stops in between—I have been to all 50 states. Transitioning from a hands-on plumber to a talking head, standing in the front of the room addressing thirsty-for-knowledge contractors, took some getting used to.
No doubt the travel part of a “traveling trainer” job is the most challenging. Hours spent squeezed inside an aluminum sausage, aka big, old jet-airliner, can be frustrating. I do love the views and amazing sunset and sunrises I have seen. Lightning show, massive clouds are incredible, but they never look the same on the phone camera. For the most part the airline folks have been helpful and accommodating.
When they see the miles you rack up as a business traveler, they will almost always accommodate your request. Approaching them without a chip on your shoulder helps the outcome. Maybe it’s me, but it seems like a lot more delays and cancelations lately, busy times in the air travel business. So, I usually plan for some shuffling and exercise some chill skills. But I digress.
Once at the location, the fun part begins for me. I enjoy sharing what I have learned and listening to stories from attendees. For sure, my favorite parts of the job are the shop and jobsite visits. I learn from seeing how the new products and technology are actually being blended together on actual jobs. Browsing through the back rooms of the wholesaler and rep buildings can provide some good intel.
I try to balance my training between product pitch and theory, applications, tips and tricks. It is important that the training sponsors advertise and promote the training accurately. If the training is intended to be all product and sales, that needs to be clear, so the folks attending know what to expect. Technical guys and gals prefer technical topics, from my experience.
I try to engage the group as much as possible, learn their skill level and expected outcome. Training for me is a give and take experience, as nobody knows it all. Except perhaps my wife. (Shhhh!) Generally, the room is a mix of expertise levels, so try to include info for everyone to leave with. Know your audience!
The dynamics of a room vary depending on the group. If you have a roomful of competitors, the questions do not flow so easily. Training at shops, reps and wholesalers always result in more interaction.
During the lunch break, spring for some food for the group, even if it is good pizza. Shop for the local brand favorite.
I’ve found a 4-hour maximum for tech heavy topics is a good lid for an event. It’s tough to keep a blue-collar person down as they need to keep moving. Their backs and knees make sitting for a long time challenging, too.
I always want to leave the attendees with a nice hard copy of the material we covered. The Caleffi Idronics are perfect handouts: They are a reference, both as a hard copy and online version. Also, it’s always nice to see the group taking notes in the margins.
Back at the office—in-house—I help produce the Coffee with Caleffi series, a webinar that cover important topics in the plumbing and hydronics industry.
If we haven’t met or shared a gab session together, I hope to do so soon. I’ll keep in communication with the Mechanical Hub community about dates and times for upcoming seminars, and webinars!
Bob ‘Hot Rod’ Rohr is director of training and education at Caleffi.