This is the second entry about my time at International Trainers’ Congress in Ukraine. For part one, go here.
After writing this I realize it’s only a small part of what actually happened. Can't be helped. So, knowing that if you want to know anything else you’ll have to ask me, here’s my week at ITC:
At morning plenary Juraj Kovac introduced himself as our Chair. Semi-funny, semi-formal AIESEC alumni and entrepreneur, Juraj would be teaching us about how to find our passion in life and turn it into our living. Afterwards Kevin, agenda manager, came on stage telling us ITC 2008 was based around a model for how people learn called the Celemi cycle, with the whole conference being one such circle and each day containing smaller ones. Then three of the facis shared personal experiences of being a trainer. The one that stuck in my mind was Kevin's. He said he used to jump at every opportunity to deliver trainings, but never considered if those trainings actually made the impact he wanted. A lot of later discussions would revolve around this.
We were divided into homegroups (or actually e-groups, fitting in with the conference theme). Together with my faci Hana we were 10 people from 9 countries. The weather was sunny and we sat outside doing get to know each other games. Back in plenary we did a roleplay involving milk. We were put into smaller groups which got to represent certain parts in a structure of suppliers and customers we didn't quite know. We were supposed to earn profit and had 5 days (5 minutes in real time), safety rules regarding milk as well as rules for selling and buying made it more complicated. It was a confusing and somewhat hectic experience. That I and my team misunderstood (or wasn't given enough instructions I'd say) one thing didn't make it easier.
The discussions afterwards made me appreciate the exercise more. As members of an organization we need to understand the structure of it, as well as who and in what way we're connected to the external world. Trainers need this understanding to deliver relevant trainings that helps the organization work better.
By the end of the day our group was already becoming a team. Through the most random way of coming up with a group name and shout (creds to Hana and to our amazing group!) we got the most random shout and name (and the best). Later Hana had us sit together around a large flipchart. We wrote our names on the chart while Hana put a small ball in the middle. We imagined ourselves being at the end of our lives. What would we pass on, what would our final speech be? When we wanted to we picked up the ball and made our speech, while the others could draw connecting lines to their own name and write something if they felt they had something in common. It was a memorable moment where we shared a lot of personal things. And that with people we hadn’t known more than a day. We left a big chart filled with colored lines and words.
Next morning Kevin held a session called "Learning in a digital age". He was using video, powerpoints, flipcharts, asking questions and frequently made us discuss with our neighbors. Suddenly he asked us to pick up our mobile phones and send an sms to a friend with the questions "Which country are you currently in? How is the weather like? What did you have for breakfast? What was your last purchase?". The intention of the session was to make us start thinking about how we can use technology in training. Being someone who's thought along those lines before the session still spurred on my thinking. Podcasts, wikis, videoconferencing -- there could be a lot of opportunities and I have some ideas of my own.
The bulk of the day was spent in the homegroups where we learned about the Celemi cycle. Most trainings don't make the participants go through the whole cycle. If you can manage to do that you know your training has made the desired impact.
We also learned another model called the accelerated learning model that we could combine with Celemi, and then about different learning styles. First the regular Visual Auditive Kinestethic model then another I'd never heard of called SAVI. We could also relate what we were learning with Kevin's performance earlier. While I didn't realize at his session, Kevin came to serve as a role model for how to do a great session. A highlight was when Hana made us split up and deliver a training on how to change diapers in four different ways using the SAVI model. I'm not sure if I've laughed that much before or since.
In the evening was Connection Café. Small sessions were held by different people spread around the hotel and we got to choose. I wanted to be on all of them and had serious troubles choosing between Juraj's session about finding your passion and turn it into your living and Kevin's where we would be able to discuss the use of technology in training and learn more about it. I chose Kevin's since I've read more about Juraj's subject than most, and I felt I needed more concrete ideas regarding using technology in training. An interesting discussion followed with Kevin sharing things like how you could do trainings with webcams and projectors.
We learned about group dynamics, and we were given papers with advice on how to deal with troublesome individuals. We also got to know more about Saturday, International Training Day, where each homegroup would deliver a 3 hour seminar to ukrainian students. Our group immediately started preparing it, which turned out to be good.
In the evening came the second and final Connection Café where the dilemma from the previous day repeated itself. Juraj's or Kevin's, with increasing competition from others. Kevin had a session on how to do training without technology. Having seen his room in the hotel, filled with stunning flipcharts it was a hard choice. I went with Juraj's this time, since he was going to discuss his business ideas.
I made a good choice. Juraj has hopes for re-making the educational system, ideas for attracting AIESEC alumni with the possibility to actually make a positive impact in society, and integrate into AIESEC through being able to help PBOXes. Beginning in Slovakia he has a kind of unofficial program that accepts a number of people to provide them with a special education focusing on things like entrepreneurship and leadership. It’s all very interesting ideas. ITC has made me think more about the educational system and how much better it could be. Actually I've thought it's flawed for many years but haven't had much in the way of solutions either.
Day four was externals day where a presentation was held by Gary Reusche, a project manager with experience of doing that for 25 years, experience of being a trainer and consultant as well as from living in 40 (!) countries. He touched on many things. One was resonance, which he used as a metaphor and model for well-working one to one relations as well as well-functioning organizations when you scale the concept up. Very interesting to me was also some things about leading teams. Gary had a strong belief in consensus-based decision making, saying that when consensus fails the team fails. Being a newly elected project manager I found his presentation more than interesting. I chatted with him for some time about project management and he offered to send me some materials (which having read them now I’ve decided will become the basis for my style of project management the coming year).
The rest of the day and most of the night was spent in my homegroup preparing ITD. We'd chosen the topic "Stand out of the crowd" and would deliver a training on self-discovery, finding out what goals you have and how to get there. By that time it felt like we'd already become a good team. We'd done a lot of exercises that worked as teambuilding the days before and I was amazed by how close of a team we'd become.
But with time pressure came challenges. We started interrupting each other constantly and had trouble agreeing. A girl in my team acted as facilitator and put some rules for our meetings: you can only speak when you're holding our "speaking pen", if you want to say something raise your hand, if you agree to something -- show thumbs up! This worked wonders and everyone seemed to calm down. It was fascinating how we didn't need the pen anymore. When someone spoke everyone became silent and we continued to use these gestures. I'd never been in a team that had better communication than this. By the end we were a better team than ever.
And so the big day arrived. Though normally not too nervous standing on stage anymore I was this time. I didn't like a presentation I was going to hold -- which was chosen by me and prepared by me so all my doing. I wanted to change it, and did so until the last minute. The changes were good and I had a blast. I believe we all had. Armed with knowledge about how to make a session interesting and plenty of ideas of our own we delivered a seminar where participants got to smash balloons with obstacles that prevented them from reaching their goals written on them, play games and be involved the whole time. I opened my presentation with "Anyone wants some chocolate?", using a bar of Swedish chocolate to demonstrate what proactivity is about, and continuing during the whole presentation to push my limits by using a style very different from what I’ve done before. In the end we all put post-it notes of our names on a paper along with pictures of successful people. The students where the best we could've wished for. That day, everyone there stood out from the crowd.
Next day turned out to largely be a disappointment. Several team members left and it had a big effect on the atmosphere. But there were some cool moments, such as Kevin's Life Calculator. We were all involved in the calculation and as it turned out the time we have left to pursue our dreams is four years, illustrated by four pieces of toilet paper. Then Kevin said "But it doesn't come in a row, it comes in small pieces" and started to tear it apart. Highlight of the day was later when Juraj came on to the stage with a longer piece of toilet paper, showing that when you turn your passion into your living you get a lot more time. Inspiring the whole thing.
On the flight home I continued to think on something Kevin said: "ITC is a beginning, not an end". ITC had a big impact on me. It changed my views on learning, on teambuilding and having gone through it I believe it’s changed me to some extent. Even my future plans took quite a turn. Also not to forget is that we live in a digital age where it's possible to stay in touch over distances. Coming home our group created a facebook group and Hana mailed us telling she’s there to help us implement our ITC experience. Truly a beginning.