User training…..

I spent most of last week getting user requirements for a project I’m doing for an international firm. This firm has excellent video conferencing facilities and as they have offices around the world I spend a lot of time using those facilities to get input from people around the globe. Although I used video conference tools before and in general prefer the face to face situation, I must say I was impressed with the facilities they had and the possibilities it offered.

This made me think of a very bizarre user training I once gave over ten years ago…..

Back then I worked for another major international company where I helped develop an online CRM package for a business unit within the company. Part of the implementation was to deliver a user training. Now this business unit had lot’s of small branches around the globe with only a few users at each of the locations so flying around the globe to give the training wasn’t an option. Flying the users out to the Netherlands wasn’t an option either so the choice was made to do a training by phone conference….

This was the time when internet was far from what it is today and things like a multi-channel video conference or even screen sharing just wasn’t an option yet. In fact at that time I had only just gotten rid of my 56kb phone modem.
So a phone conference it was. I had sent out the link with the application URL and login details earlier and had asked each of the users to log in ahead and report any login problems so that we wouldn’t have to spend time during the meeting to solve login errors.

At 16:00 CET we started:

<BEEP><BEEP>……<BEEP> ….. Hello?…Hello?… somebody there? This is Hong Kong…<squeek>…..
Me: Hello Hong Kong this is Femke, can you hear me?
Hong Kong: ……………. Hello?… Hello?…. Mmm, I think we’re first. No one there yet I guess, did we get the time right? (shortly followed by a whole discussion in Chinese)…….
Me: Hong Kong, we’re here, can you hear me???
Hong Kong:……….<squeek>……..(more Chinese)……
London: Mmm, I think they don’t have their speakers set up correctly, wouldn’t be the first time either. This is John from London by the way, hello Femke!
Me: Hello John, welcome and good of you to join!
….<BEEP> …..
Hello it’s Tim and Brian joining from New York here!

Me: Hello Tim and Brian, welcome! we’re still awaiting South Africa and Sao Paulo and then we’ll start the lesson.
…..(more undefinable squeeking and Chinese. Somewhat agitated now)…..
London: I think we just lost Hong Kong there……
Me: Probably, let’s hope they call back
….<BEEP> <BEEP>….. (Sao Paulo & Cape Town join the phone conference)
Me: Ok, we’re still missing Hong Kong but I’ll start anyway.
So welcome all, I hope you all have your pc/laptop in front of you and have logged into the application as requested.
New York (Tim): Ehhh… was that required, ok hold on and let me get my laptop!
Me: Well yes, didn’t you see my earlier message on this? Please hurry!
….(lots of scuffle in the background while Tim gets his laptop)….
Me: Ok, now I’ll start with a short introduction, can you all open the home page and click the “Contacts” link in the top?
…(sound of clicks in the background while each of the participants opens the requested page)…
London: Mmm… I’m getting an error here, is that normal?
Me: No, in general not. What error do you get?
London: Ehhh… sorry clicked it away, and now my browser hangs. Hang on, let me restart Windows….
Me: No! That would take too long, simply close the browser and reopen it.
London: Ehhh… sorry, too late, I’d already pressed the reset button on the pc. But don’t worry, it normally doesn’t take long to start…..
Me: Ok, well then start it up asap please while I continue.
…<BEEP>…… Hello?,….. Hello?!? (Chinese swearing)….
….. <CLICK>…….

London: That was Hong Kong again I guess……
Me: Yes, I think so… Ok, let’s go on with the session
So, you should all see the ‘Contacts’ overview now listing all the contacts that are in the……(Windows Startup song blasts through the speaker while John’s pc starts up in London)……..
London: Sorry! I’ll mute my mic!
Me: Ok, please do while I continue
…..(chuckling on the line)…….
New York: Tim here! I’m ready and I’ve got my laptop, where did I need to go?
Me: Ok Tim good. Please open the Contacts overview by clicking the Contacts link in the top
So……where was I…. Ok, the Contacts overview. Now this overview lists all of the contacts in the application you can… <BEEP>……
….. Hello? This is Hong Kong, can you hear me??……
Me: Hello Hong Kong, yes we can, can you hear us?
Hong Kong: Yes, I can! We couldn’t reach you guys but it all seems to work now!
Me: Good, we already started. Could you please open the Contacts overview by clicking the button in the top?
Hong Kong: Ehhh….Which button?
Me: You should see a link in the top of the application page linking to the Contacts overview
Hong Kong: How do I open the application??
Me: Didn’t you get my email? I send the link before?
Hong Kong: Sorry, never saw an email. Let me check…
Me: I can’t wait for that, I’ll sent it to you again, please try to login asap while I continue
By this time I’m asking myself how we’re ever going to get through this
Me: John, has your pc restarted yet? Do you get the error again?
London: ……………………………………………………………….
Me: John, if you can hear me then please un-mute your mic, we can’t hear you.
London:  Sorry for that, yes I’m back, no error this time, got the Contacts overview
Me: Good. Ok so the Contacts…… (I continue talking a bit about the Contacts overview)
New York (Brian): ……Damn Tim, stop that!…….
New York (Tim): Shut up, I want to see what’s behind that button!
New York (Brian): She’s still talking about the Contacts, let’s just follow what she says!!
New York (Tim): Get your own pc then!
Me: Ehhh….. sorry, New York is everything ok there?
……(By this point Tim & Brian get into a heated argument followed by a door being slammed)…..
New York (Tim): Sorry for that, Brian just walked out
Me: Ehh…. Is he coming back or should I continue?
New York (Tim): He’s an *&%hole, just continue
Me: Ok, I still feel he should be hearing this but we’ll continue
….<BEEP>….. Hi, this is Brian, I moved next door, sitting behind my own desk here. Sorry for that, Tim just couldn’t wait and listen and was already clicking all kinds of buttons even if you hadn’t told us to do so
New York (Tim): You’re an *&%hole, Brian, you know!
New York (Brian): Likewise!
….(again an  argument between Tim & Brian erupts, this time over the phone conference as they are now sitting in separate offices)……
Hong Kong: (raising his voice to get over the still ongoing argument) : …..Ehh… sorry but I just received your mail, I can’t seem to log in. It says my password is incorrect…..
Me: (while Brian & Tim continue their argument) could it be you have your caps lock on?
Hong Kong: (trying without the caps lock)…… Ah yes, thank you it works
Me: Tim, Brian, please I need to continue, could you please stop this and continue another time?
New York: ………(Still in a bitter fight between each other, don’t even react to my plea)……
At that moment the Business Unit CEO that was sitting next to me finally intervenes and tells Tim & Brian unceremoniously to shut up…..
Me: Ok, after all that lets continue….. Where was I
Hong Kong: The Contacts overview. Where was the link to that again?!?
Me: In the top, to the left side
Hong Kong: …..Can’t find it…….
…..hold on, the other left side….. ok, got it!
Me: So, again, contacts….

This went on for two hours straight. It was one of the most memorable training sessions I ever gave. I still don’t know how I managed to actually complete that training but I did….. somehow…..


  1. Femke Goedhart

    Thanks Fred, I actually had a good laugh just writing it all down again. This is one of my most memorable memories of 10+ years of working in IT. It was so absurd and so funny…. Although I didn't think so at the moment it happened!

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