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Steve Robson

Marine Industry

Learning and Development Consultant

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More Bad Words


Following on from "Icebreaker"..."Fun"..."Game" ...and don't get me started on "Warm Up Exercise"... A few more gems to banish from the Training room! "getting your point across"...what does that mean? "covering a topic"...what does that mean? More of my collection of bad words and phrases to follow! Unless you have some?? Best regards Steve

18 Responses

  1. Forgot to mention…
    Forgot to mention Trainers who continually say “Ok” and “Yeah”

    ie…I want you do do this ok…

    ie…You do it like this yeah…

    Both are patronising and need to join the list of banned words!

  2. Banned!

    Hi Steve,

    I was on a training course yesterday for a ‘train the trainer on customer service’ course run by the retailer I work for.  In all fairness the course was pitched at store managers and not trainers, and as a newbie I had had no input in the content at all.  We were told to never use ‘role play’ and instead call it a practice session, or just say ‘let’s have a go’.  If someone said ‘is this role play?’ we were to answer ‘no, it’s just a practice’. 

    The trainer did however call an icebreaker just that, and did admit that in her early days she was an okay-er! 

  3. Role Play

    Hi Nik

    Good point!

    Role Play are 2 new words that should never be seen in the same sentence!

    If I was asked to "pretend" to be something I would head for the exit quicker than the Trainer could say "we are going to have some fun" 🙂

  4. Just Checking…

    If we are banning role play, then what ARE we calling them?  Did my trainer get it right?  Personally I’ve never had a problem with role plays myself, but appreciate I am in the minority.  As I understand it we want our training to be interactive, so there has to be something like role play in it, and many courses where it is very much required to embed the learning.  If it IS role pay and just the name is changed, isn’t that patronising our delegates by presuming they will be fooled by a different name?  Or are they?!?

  5. Play
    Hi Nik

    Well…not sure about you but if I attend a course I expect to the Trainer to know what they are doing and not waste my time.

    If “play” is mentioned I tend to think the Trainer hasn’t really got a clue about my needs and is wasting my time and money.

    Of course real life scenarios have to be brought in to Training but lets keep it real and relevant and not oudated games by Trainers who are stuck in a time warp.

  6. Super Fun Role Play Icebreaker Senarios!

    So what do YOU call them in your sessions?  Do you announce ‘now we’re going to practice relevant real life senarios’? 

    Apologies if I am sounding pedantic, but I’m genuinely interested.  If we’re banishing the name we need to call them something! 

    When I first started training by the way my session were ‘fun’.  I then took myself off to get properly qualified and for the 2 years I was stydying ran very worthy but faintly dull sessions.  I hope that I am now getting a balance between the two and am able to shift the scale depending on my delegates, the company paying me and the subject matter!

  7. What do I call them?
    Hello again!

    I don’t call them anything because I don’t do “them”

    I do, however, bring the real world in to the Training room and rather than having pretend scenarios we have real scenarios
    with real outcomes.

    You might be missinterpreting my idea of “fun”…I have yet to have ran a course where “fun” wasn’t had but it certainly wasn’t planned for…it was as a result of delegates learning something new which is undoubtedly “fun” and enjoyable.

    Unfortunately. I have attended too many courses where the Trainer thought “fun” was the aim…I can go to a Comedy club for that and its much cheaper than the average Training course.

  8. Bringing the real world into the training room…

    Hi Steve,

    I’ve followed your posts on Bad Words & More Bad Words, and now, like Nikki, am genuinely interested in this one.

    I’m going to have to make an assumption here, so please do feel free to correct me, but I’m guessing that no matter how real the scenario – including actual problems that the delegates are working on – can not be totally played out in the training room without an element of ‘role-play’ (and no, I’m not a big fan of the phrase, but it’s generally clear and well understood by the delegates themselves).

    Let me give an example – let’s say I’m delivering some training around presentation skills.  In the pre-course work the delegates get asked to prepare a presentation on a topic that they will be presenting on in the near future.

    So far, so good – real business need (cos I’ve done my analysis :-)), real scenario…

    But neither their fellow delegates or me are their target audience, so surely when we get to the bit where I have them deliver the presentation, we’re into an area of ‘role-play’ or ‘practice’ or ‘whatever term you wish to apply’?

    I did wonder if the above scenario could be applied to your work (amending presentation skills for an appropriate topic)?  If so, what DO you call it?

    On the broader issue of ‘bad words’, my personal opinion:  As long as we’re all focused on delivering measurable outcomes, that the delegates can apply back in their environment, does it matter what we call it??  Surely as a training professional, I shouldn’t be defined by the terms that I use but by the results I help people achieve?

    Many thanks for starting the debate,



  9. Perfect
    Hi Ian

    The situation you describe…ie…practicing a presentation during the session is perfect. There is no other way of doing it, it’s relevant and useful and the Learning is about as high as it gets. Does that sound like “playing” to you?

    Let’s big it up and call it a run through or a trial or a preview. Give it the merit it deserves.

    As for asking someone to pretend they are “a” and talk to someone who is pretending to be a “b…not sure about you but I have better things to do with my time. (This usually comes after throwing tennis balls and calling out names) Everyone is laughing and the “Trainer” thinks they are doing a great job so do it next time..and next time…and next time….

    Good luck and keep away from Tennis balls! Unless you are playing tennis! 🙂


  10. More of a squash man…

    Thanks for the reply Steve,

    Purely playing devil’s advocate here, but if the throwing of tennis balls has a purpose and leads to a richer learning experience, where’s the harm?

    Is it possible that by not considering these in your design process you might in fact be denying your delegates a more powerful learning experience?

    Best wishes for the weekend,


  11. Last one before the weekend!

    Hi Ian

    "Purely playing devil’s advocate here, but if the throwing of tennis balls has a purpose and leads to a richer learning experience, where’s the harm?"

    If it leads to anything like a rich learning experience then I will pack my bags and do something else for a living. (Unless the course is about he Solar System, Elasticity or Ball Design.)

     "Is it possible that by not considering these in your design process you might in fact be denying your delegates a more powerful learning experience?

    I consider every possibility that I know of to enhance my courses but I can’t remember the last time tennis balls were on the shortlist of ideas.

    Elasticity, The Solar System and Ball Design spring to mind but I haven’t designed a course on them yet. If I did of course I would use lots of balls in the training room.

    Have a good weekend 🙂 Steve

  12. No ***?

    I must admit to never having used tennis balls, and have never stated that ‘fun’ is an objective.

    The last course I designed was about feedback for first level supervisors, and (guilty) I did give out senario cards.  I think I just said it was practice.  This was just in twos around the room and not ‘come to the front and show everyone’.  I would be very interested to know if this would have made you run to the door screaming and how I could have avoided it if so.

    I hope you dont have nightmares about super fun role playing icebreakers!


  13. Network meetings

    Hi Niki

    Sounds ok but a little formulaic…if you joined my London Training Network group…1 member so far…ME…you would get some good ideas to make your courses less predictable.

    Do we now have 2 members? 😉

  14. Language is good for us


    No ‘getting your point across’. Do I sense a bit of Grumpy Old Trainer!!!

    But I do agree with you. Training is the art of informative communication. We should take pride in using language with care and precision; it is our main tool. All too often I see trainers using the linguistic equivalent of ‘fast food’ only to undermine their credibility or give the group indigestible learning.

    That said, if you go to France, speak French. If you train lawyers, you need to converse on their terms. If you are on the shop floor, you need to operate on their wavelength and, to some degree, that is about language. Not copying. Not trying to pretend you are something you are not. But recognising that there is no point broadcasting on Radio 4 if they are tuned in to Radio 1. Being too distant, too formal (perhaps even too correct) can itself be a flaw.

    Spoken language is full of idiosyncrasies, informal oddities and stumblings. For me, the secret is in knowing this and using the spoken word to connect with people, to elicit their views, to share stories and to bring complex concepts to life. To that extent, maybe there are no bad words. Only words we use badly. Terms like ‘icebreaker’ have become loaded over the years due to poor trainers giving it a bad name. Unfortunately, this has driven some serious minded trainers to abandon the concept, which is almost as bad.

    On the topic of role plays, I usually call them simulations – implying something more like crimewatch than the bill – setting it up as a process of practisng real skills in a realistic scenario. I do use the term role play from time to time where it is common parlance, where it hasn’t been tainted by past experiences and where it is understood to mean a dry run. If that means I am using bad words, I’m guilty as charged. But I hope, for the most part, that what I say and how I say it is rich with meaning and low on negative connotations. If you know what I mean, like. Yeah?


  15. Good Points
    You make some good points Graham…

    Although I agree Rapport is extremely important…do we really need to use delegate language to have rapport with them?

    Most of my delegates are off the scale intelligent academics / top Engineers so I have no chance of talking their language but I do create rapport. Learning something useful is incredibly enjoyable whoever you are!

    (btw…I have taught teenagers and still didn’t feel the need to make them wear funny hats and play games!)

    So…back to banning more stuff from Training rooms!

    Bingo (why would you?)

    Who Wants to be a Millionaire type games ( Unless you are Chris Tarrent leave well alone!)

  16. Do we need to use delegate language?


    What’s the difference between:

    ‘Slip and pitch a 135 to the 2nd floor’


    ‘Take the big ladder off the fire engine, place it against the wall of the house, set the leg props up to support it making sure that it is stable.

     If I’d used the 2nd version in the Fire Brigade I’d have been laughed out the trainig room!  Communicating in the language of the participiants is essential in my experience to establish credibility.  Being able to anchor a concept you are suggesting to a way of working or speaking, which the delegate is familiar with, is helpful beyond belief.

     Icebreakers?  In my experience ‘most’ participants expect them, whether we label them or not.  I’ve experience of participants highlighting that we hadn’t had an icebreaker at the start of the day (when we had) since I hadn’t ‘signposted’ it.

    Have Fun! 

  17. Language

    By language I was refering to Grahams comments about “slang” and using words to build rapport rather than technical words and terms which I completely agree are essential to get right. Not all training is necessarily in an area that is familliar to both trainer and delegates. (Train The Trainer, Diversity Training, Knowledge management etc etc) I think being “different” is actually a powerful tool in rapport building so I rarely try to be the same as delegates.

    As for delegates “expecting icebreakers”…

    Delegates only expect what they are used to. If every course they were on they were asked to throw a tennis ball and shout out their name they would think this is “normal”

    Except if they came on one of my courses where tennis balls are banned and anyone who expects to wear a funny hat would be asked to leave immediately.

    Have fun…but don’t expect your delegates to! The occasional smile is allowed 😉


  18. What about Brain Friendly Learning?


    This is all really interesting and some good points have been made but all of this talk about what Trainers should and shouldn’t do or say kind of confuses me.  Surely as Trainers we need to ensure that the delegates in the room are getting a full learning experience and taking away skills and knowledge that will benefit them, it shouldn’t matter what we say or ask them to do to get there, should it?

    As an advocate of brain friendly learning techniques I think it’s essential that we use words, activites and so on pitched at the right level for the audience that a persons enhance sensory learning experience.  Brain friendly learning is often perceived as ‘just playing games’, if thats the case then it’s not being done properly.  If I ask a group to throw around tennis balls then if this supports and helps cement their learning whats the problem?



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Steve Robson

Learning and Development Consultant

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