Profiling the Webex Participants: What Every Trainer Should Know

Profiling the Webex Participants: What Every Trainer Should Know


2003, the year I attended my very first training session.  It was not a training session – it was an epiphany! At the end of day 3 it was clear to me what profession I wanted to embrace rather than the one I had to enter because of degrees I had accrued.  It was in this session that I was first introduced to the 4 categories of participants that a trainer was likely to encounter in his/her session.

As a budding trainer, when I first learnt about these 4 categories of participant profiles, I was convinced that my life in the training room was simplified.  The adage “knowledge is power” at this point in time sounded true for me.  For, with this knowledge about the 4 categories of participant profiles, I felt equipped to manage the learning curve of my participants as a trainer.   While some of you may already know of these 4 categories, let me briefly summarise them for the benefit of the rest.

The 4 categories of participant profiles in a training: 

1.    Prisoners are the self-proclaimed victims of training. They find neither meaning nor purpose in attending any training they are put into. They are there only because their management / manager wants not because they personally see the need or value in it.  At a very fundamental level, they lament having to be there and as such are only successful in dampening the spirit and lowering the energy levels of the group and the trainer in some cases.

2.    Vacationers are the most enthusiastic of all to attend a training.  Attending training means time to sit back, relax and enjoy time off from the regular and mundane office routines. It is almost like they are on a paid holiday.  They feel neither burdened nor lament over their presence in the room.  Their only objective is to have fun and avoid office work.

3.    Expert is one who is convinced that he/she knows more than the trainer or anyone else in the room.  When you see someone frequently trying to defy, question, offer additional inputs, or always having a point to make, you know it’s the Expert asserting his/her presence. The expert’s objective is to ‘check out’ the trainer’s worth and /or patience.  They find it particularly thrilling to either score above the trainer in terms of knowledge or push them over the threshold of their tolerance.

4.    Explorers or the devout learner is of course the one person in the room who is there to make the most of the situation.  He/she is the one who comes with a focused agenda to learn and explore new ideas that will help him/her develop either professionally or personally.  Explorers fundamentally aim to expand their knowledge base and further themselves by participating in such training programs. They see training as an opportunity to better themselves and their prospects. Hence, they are the ones who actively participate in the session and are receptive to what the trainer is saying.

Now fast forward to the year 2015 – the era of online or web based training (WBT).  I am sure many of you reading this would have had the experience of conducting a WBT, in particular using the ever so pervasive “webex”.  My own experience with webex has been adventurous – learning new ways of facilitating a session with ‘online’ participants, delivering session through a new medium, but above all developing new ways to make a virtual session interactive.

Being many webex sessions old now, I have currently been motivated to understand the profile of the participants that undergo training over webex.  Even more so because of the ‘elusive’ presence of these participants in virtual training sessions. Given this peculiar characteristic of the webex participants in particular, is there a way by which we can understand them using the 4 categories of participant profiles that I just shared with you?  In other words, over a 2 hour webex session what ‘online’ actions on part of the participant can / will help us identify whether a participant in our session is an explorer, a vacationer, an expert, or a prisoner?

Instead of me giving out the answers (honestly I am still uncovering the answer), let me hear from you and see what answer you have for this question.  Please send in your answers in the comments below and we will will publish the best answer to this question in our next blog update.

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