Learn from Other’s Lessons

When was the last time you learned something new?  When I am tackling something for the first time, I love to connect with someone who has done it before. Let me learn from their lessons rather than making all those mistakes myself!

Susan Onaitis, President of Global Learning Link, has trained many people from over 75 countries. That is a lot of people, a lot of cultures, and a lot of lessons.


susan photo

Having traveled four continents and trained people in over seventy-five countries, I’d like to pass along a few tips to trainers who might be doing the same thing. Some of the tips may seem like “no brainers.” However, when your brain is jet-lagged you might forget them. Some have to do with pre-travel action items that will make your trip go a lot more smoothly. These tips are organized into what to do before, during,and after your training—a kind of checklist approach to help you get organized. You may even have a few of your own to add!


1. Plan your trip with an extra day or two on the front end. You may think you can power through jet lag, but your body has a way of undermining the best intentions. Allow yourself time to get on the clock of the country you are visiting.

2. Fly a major airline, preferably one with many flights to your destination. That way if there is a problem, you have options.

3. Lots of people believe in melatonin as a natural way to adjust your body to your destination’s clock. Many have successfully used the three-day jet-lag diet recommended in Overcoming Jet Lag by Dr. Charles Ehret.

4. Check to make sure your passport is valid and will be for months after your trip.

5. Determine what shots or medications you might need prior to traveling. Schedule them enough in advance of your travel that you are not suffering any side-effects while on the trip.

6. Take only enough of the local currency to buy a meal and a cab ride from the airport. It is almost always less costly to exchange money in the country you are visiting than at home. Many hotels exchange currency and don’t charge the outrageous fees you find at the airports. Banks in the destination country often have the best exchange rates.

7. Pack light. You never know where and how far you might end up having to carry your luggage. Leave the steamer trunks at home.

8. Remember to pack all medications you need in their original bottles or plan to carry a copy of the prescription.

9. Check that your destination location has copy facilities. Then you can send your materials ahead and not worry about having to carry them. Remember that overseas packages might get waylaid for some reason in customs, so allow plenty of time for materials to arrive.

10.  Always carry a master copy of all your materials.

11.  Check out the power and voltage situation to bring adapters so your equipment works “over there.”

12.  Learn something about the culture you will be working in so you don’t do something offensive in your attire, greeting, dining, or training. A wonderful resource is the book Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More than 60 Countries (2006) by Terri Morrison and Wayne Conaway.

13.  Design your training program with the culture and language differences in mind. Not all cultures love interaction in the classroom. Don’t assume that what works at home also works abroad. Create an environment that is safe for participants, but that also accomplishes your objectives.

14. Designing the training so that you divide the class into small groups to work gives participants a chance to help each other, clear up any confusion, or ask questions in their own language. Very often the most confident English speaker in the group will ask a question that has the whole group confused.

15. As you design the program, keep in mind that if you are using an interpreter during your program it will take about one-third to one-half again as much time for the translation, and factor that into the timing of your program.

16. Use a local interpreter in the destination, if possible. He/she will know the local references, jargon, and colloquialisms.

17. Try to arrange a meeting with the interpreter prior to the training so you can get to know how he/she works best.

18. Have the materials translated by someone in the destination and keep all materials in both English and the local language. That way, if there is a question about the materials, you will know where participants are looking and to what they are referring.

19. Before you leave, plan your ground transportation upon arrival. It’s one less thing you have to worry about when you get off the airplane tired and possibly disoriented.

20. Once you arrive at your destination, try to check out the training room a day before to see whether you have everything you need.

21. Do a dry run with your equipment and your interpreter (if possible) to make certain everything works as you expect.

22. Check a day or two in advance of your training to be sure your materials have arrived and you can get your hands on them. If they haven’t arrived, you still have time to make copies.


1. If you are teaching in English and not using an interpreter, remember to slow down your speech. Articulate clearly. Eliminate slang expressions, jokes, and colloquialisms common at home that might confuse participants.

2. If you are using an interpreter, slow down your speech so he/she can get the full meaning. Remember, English may be the interpreter’s second or third language. Pause regularly to be sure he/she has caught up with you.

3. Give frequent breaks—your interpreter needs them. Translating is intense work and can be very tiring. Make sure your interpreter can stay rested and fresh or he/she may miss important points in the training.

4. Check in with your participants frequently to allow them to ask questions. This is extremely important when the audience comes from a non-English-speaking country and English is their second or third language.

5. Listen carefully. Ask the interpreter for help if you don’t understand what a participant is saying.

6. Enjoy yourself and have fun. Participants will relax if they see you are relaxed and confident. Let your warmth and personality come through.

7. Have participants complete a feedback form. Ask open-ended questions to gain insight into whether the training / program met their needs.

8. Give participants an easy way to contact you if they have questions following the program.


1. Evaluate the training with the participants’ managers. Review any areas of confusion that came out in the feedback forms.

2. Assist managers with a follow-up plan for each participant based on what you observed in the classroom.

3. The rule of thumb on recovery from jet lag is about one day of recovery for every time zone you have crossed. So if you live in New York and have just returned from Singapore, you will probably need about thirteen days to recapture your body clock completely.

Reprinted with permission from The Essential Guide to Global Audiences, Pfeiffer

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