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are; it lowers the centre of gravity and counteracts the tendency of the wire to twist away. Tis pole allows them to perform extraordinary feats without a net or harness. In 1974, Philippe Petit used a

25kg, 8-metre long balancing pole to walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, more than 400 metres above the ground. No net. No harness. No second chance if it went wrong. He described feeling a sense of ease and simplicity. Astonishing. Is there an equivalent in the

training room? What allows the trainer to experience a sense of ease and simplicity? To answer that I would first ask, “how would such a feeling manifest itself ?” For me, the answer is a freedom

to respond to the changing needs of the people in the room, just as a tightrope walker responds to the movement of the rope, the weight of the pole and

the force of the wind: ` `

to have the agility to respond

flexibly, maintaining balance, responding to the left and to the right, while moving forward

`` ``

to know, without effort, what questions to ask that will help the delegates to also move forward

❝ `` `` `` `` ``

to have the sensory acuity to pick up subtle signals, being completely

knowledge and experience to draw from. You also need to ‘get it’ from the delegates’ perspective. You need to have felt what they feel about the subject, or at least be able to empathise. Being stressed, on the other hand,

Being stressed causes the wobbles, both for you and for the delegates

present in the moment with the delegates, not worrying about timings, material and learning objectives

to trust yourself to be able to deal with enquiring, curious interventions, seeking and welcoming the interruption

to treat the delegates like adults, collaborators in the process, bringing their own insights and capable of working things out for themselves

to not need to give (or even to have) all the answers

to not have to be in charge or in control all the time

to feel grounded, while up in the air.

To achieve this level of ease and simplicity, you need to know your subject area. You need a breadth of

causes the wobbles, both for you and for the delegates. To be really agile in this environment you need to trust your brain to efficiently find answers, pose questions and notice what’s going on in the room. Like the tightrope walker, you need to be able to face each obstacle and change with confidence. Worrying about what the audience is going to throw at you (and whether you’ll be able to deal with it) just wastes energy.

Inspire confidence

Your audience also needs to have confidence to fully participate in their own learning. Tey need to feel relaxed enough to make waves, to interrupt, to ask “yes, but” questions without any anxiety that you are going to fall off. Tey’ll get that confidence from you and from your experience. If you haven’t got it, then they may either sit it out or even deliberately waggle the rope. Te more inexact the subject

area, the more agile you need to be, since you can’t predict what obstacles you are going to face. Compare the difference between

training on a new telephone system and training call centre staff to be effective communicators. Te delegates on the second type of course will be at different places to start with and during the training; the trainer needs to be able to deal with that. Tis, then, is the trainer’s balancing

pole; to know the subject well enough and to have enough experience that they feel solid on the wire and not worry about the drop.

Janet Webb is an independent L&OD consultant at Janet Webb Consulting. Find out more at

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