How To Handle Surprises During Training

Credits DJ Last Updated 2016-03

From internet outages to uninvited guests, this resource explores tips and advice from fellow trainers on ways to expect the unexpected during your training events.

There’s no way to predict everything that will happen in a digital security training

…or any kind of workshop or event, for that matter, but you can still prepare yourself for surprises that may come up from time to time!

Surprises with…Training Materials

Have you run out of markers, flipchart paper, post-its, or another important training aid, with no way to obtain more due to time or location? You can avoid this unpleasant surprise if you:

Bring Your Own Training Kit

A good trainer is a prepared trainer, and a prepared trainer always has their own training kit ready to go. While it may take up precious suitcase space, your own training kit guarantees that you’ll have the materials you need, when you need them. Some materials you would likely want to include:

  • Butcher / flipchart paper
  • Colored paper
  • Markers in different colors
  • Rubbing alcohol (for markers, also a good whiteboard eraser)
  • Rolls of masking and scotch tape
  • Packs of post-it notes in different colors
  • Notebooks and a bundle of pens
  • Sticky putty, thumbtacks and pins (for mounting paper)

Have “Side-B” Solutions

If you’ve run out of training materials, or are running low on supplies in your training kit, you can often stretch the usefulness of what you have. For example:

  • Use the reverse side of flipchart paper to save or create new space.
  • Extend the life of dried-out markers by removing the marker tip with tissue and pouring rubbing alcohol into the well.
  • To re-energize water-based markers, seal them in a zip-bag and freeze overnight. In the morning, thaw the markers and the ink will be restored.

Can you think of other materials that can get a good second use?

Surprises with…Internet Access

If your training venue has very limited bandwidth, or loses its Internet connection from time to time, you may be able to minimize the negative effects by making some of the following preparations:

Check the Internet access in the training venue…

While not always possible, visiting the training facility yourself a day or so before your training starts will let you identify potential problems and give you a chance to speak with the facility administrators about potential solutions.

If you can’t visit the venue yourself…

Find someone qualified who would be willing to do a walk-through of the venue prior to your arrival, and ask them to report back. Because event organizers are not necessarily equipped for technical assessments, you should reach out to someone in your professional network to conduct the visit for you. If don’t know someone in the area, contact your colleagues and peers to see if they do.

Prepare to take your training offline…

Download beforehand all the software you want participants to use. Wait until the last day during which you know you will have good internet access, so you’re sure to get the latest versions of applications. This is a good time-saver, even if your Internet connection is a good one.

Have local copies of all training resources…

Have pre-prepared, offline ready copies of presentations, guides, video clips, how-to’s, etc. well in advance. You can also burn the resources onto CDs or DVDs to give to participants as a resource for future reference.

Surprises with…Participation

Digital security trainers address sensitive topics and issues that could potentially put your participants, organizers, you and the rest of your training team at risk - especially if they heard or taken out of context by anyone who isn’t part of the training.

The easiest ways to protect against this are some basic initial steps:

Keep the Event Profile “Generic”

In private communications with participants or organizers, you may wish to call the training a “digital safety” or “digital security” workshop; however, in public (in posters, venue signs, invitations, badges, or any other such materials) you may wish to use a non-sensitive title for the event, such as “communication strategy” or “digital literacy” workshop. In the best case scenarios though, keeping public references to the event to the absolute bare minimum is usually the best way to go.

Get to know your participants before the event

You will need to work with the organizers to make sure that participants are who they say they are, and not “monitors” sent to report on training activities to outside parties. If it’s a local workshop, this becomes easier as organizers and training team members may be able to pay participants in-person visits to get to know them better. In regional and / or international contexts, you may need to have people you know and trust to verify participants’ identities and vouch for them.

Plan ahead in the case of “Uninvited Guests”

If, when the training begins, you find that one or more of the people in the room were neither invited nor vouched for, you need to consider the possibility that they have been sent to monitor the class for an outside organization. In this situation, it is recommended that you hold a meeting with the organizers and the training team to talk about the following:

  • Where are these new participants from?
  • Are they from the local government or another authority?
  • Will any participants be at risk due to their presence?
  • If so, how can you and the organizers minimize the participant’s risk?
  • Would it be safer to ask the guests to leave?
  • Are there other ways you can think of that won’t arouse any suspicion?

In some cases, it might be productive to keep the guests in the training, but to hold ‘secret’ side meetings during breaks, in the evening, or during extra days for the other participants.

If all else fails, or someone outright crashes your training space:

  • Call security
  • Call the organizers
  • Find another room, venue, and/or have workshop hours at different times.