One of the first ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions I ever undertook started with us being asked to make a hot drink for a fellow participant.
However, we were told we could only ask what what was required once – and after that, we could not ask for any further information.
The idea, of course, was to show the need for specific instructions: should the milk go in before the hot water? How many sugars (if any), how much milk, etc.
This is a bit like the 5 Ps I wrote about last week in this blog – Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
But its more than that. It’s a reminder that no matter how simple we think a task is, if we aren’t very specific, then someone is almost guaranteed to stuff it up.
That’s even more likely when language difficulties are involved.
We went into a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Ho Chi Minh City this week, and ordered a meal.
Now I know what we expected – but I also know what we got .. and the two were miles apart.
For example, we ordered butter-fish with mango, and expected a fillet of sweet white fish covered in a mango sauce.
What we got was a crispy deep-fried fish – complete with head and tail – and covered with a green papaya and mango salad.
It was delicious – as was the deep fried rice with seafood – but again, it’s not what we expected.
This was a case where words were not enough – a picture or diagram can sometimes be invaluable in getting information across.
When you are making some form of presentation, remember that words are not your only tools.
We are hard-wired to be multimedia creatures – so use whatever mediums best help you get your ideas across.
But above alll, make sure that your information is detailed, and specific.
After all, while our meals this week were delicious, that came down to pure luck.
But that cup of coffee that I mentioned at my first training session?
It was never drunk, because it was entirely unsatisfactory to the other participant.
I’d made a coffee, white, with two sugars (as I thought was the request).
Turns out they wanted tea.