Training – Lesson 1

I was nervous. Not overly so, but nervous all the same. It was to be expected. I was, and still am, nervous before I stand up in front of an audience of any size to give a presentation. I was driving towards the venue where I was to give a lecture on NDT to a training course for plant operators. It was one of the first times that I had given the lecture and so I was slightly more nervous than usual. On the plus side, I was going to arrive in good time. So that was one source of worry dismissed and I would be able to compose myself before starting my spiel. I was met in the foyer by the course tutor and he took me through to the lecture room. This presentation pre-dated PowerPoint, laptops and computer projectors and the material was on 35 mm slides, with a contingency pack of acetate overheads in case the slide projector failed.

I pulled out the carousel and followed the tutor to the projection room at the back of the lecture theatre. He took the carousel, put it on the projector and switched the projector on. The last time the carousel had been used it had been removed at the last slide. The course tutor then started to move through the slides, one by one, to get to the beginning. This meant my lecture material was being flashed up on the screen in the lecture room in reverse order. In the meantime, the lecture theatre had started to fill up as the course attendees returned from lunch for the afternoon session.

This would not have been an issue if I had been giving the lecture to graduate trainees. They are professional lecture attendees and, in my experience and making a general statement, sleep with their eyes open through the lecture itself, so they would not have taken an interest in what was being shown on the screen before the lecture started. Plant operators, on the other hand, again in my experience from these talks, are grateful to have been given time off from the day-to-day job and are motivated to find out about other technical areas. I felt disconcerted that my lecture material was being disclosed: the story I was about to tell would no longer be fresh and my ability to engage the audience diminished.

I wanted to say something to the course tutor but assumed that, as someone who worked with these facilities on a regular basis, he knew what he was doing and was repeatedly pressing the reverse button for some good reason I wasn’t aware of. So, I kept quiet and when it got to the first slide I went down to the podium and delivered the lecture as I had practised. It seemed to be well received, although I didn’t know for sure as feedback is not always given, which could be the topic of a future column. I packed up my things and went to retrieve the carousel. The course tutor met me in the projector room and proceeded to run through the same procedure as he had at the start. I don’t know if I decided that he didn’t know or if I was impatient to be on the road home, but this time I spoke up: “If you press this button and keep it pressed then you can spin the carousel to whatever position you want!” For a long time afterwards I was incredulous that the course tutor was not aware of this operation of the projector. I did learn the lesson of not assuming that people know what to do, even if you expect them to.

Now I think I am a bit wiser and my own experiences, illustrated by the two stories below, mean that I have more empathy with the course tutor. By the way, it is just a coincidence that they are both about food! Most lunchtimes I will have a Cup-a-Soup. The instructions tell you to put the powder in a mug and add hot water. For years this is what I did. The key word here is hot. Having made the soup, I was always impatient to drink it and would regularly burn my mouth slightly because I would not leave it long enough to cool to the right temperature. Having successfully made a Cup-a-Soup once, it is not something that you waste effort on thinking about how you could improve and it was a long time before I came up with the startlingly obvious, brilliant idea of adding a small amount of cold water. A simple idea it may be, but getting it correct is not: too little and you are lulled into a false sense of security and still burn your mouth; too much and you have to gulp down tepid soup!

When the kids were young, I regularly made scrambled egg for them. Again, the procedure was well established: make it in a saucepan. Cleaning the pan afterwards was always a nightmare. Even if the pan was non-stick, the egg still stuck! Now I make it in a non-stick frying pan. It could be that non-stick coatings have improved in the intervening years, or that the heat distribution through the egg is more even, or that it is easier to get the wooden spatula in to prevent the egg from sticking. Whatever it is, cleaning a scrambled egg pan is no longer hard work.

As homework, between now and part 2 of this article, I would like you to think of instances where you have suddenly found out a simple way of doing something better. If you are standing on the intellectual high-ground thinking that you are not as stupid as me, then just think about the last time a colleague, or especially a child, showed you a better way of performing an operation on your phone, tablet or PC! Even if it is obvious, if you don’t know, you cannot apply it.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within the NDT Newspaper. They do not represent the views of AMEC or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

Comments by members

This forum post has no comments, be the first to leave a comment.

Submit your comment

You need to log in to submit a Comment. Please click here to log in or register.

<< Back