Things you should have done before the first session.

At an early stage discuss the proposed programme with the local organisers. Do your best to get agreement on:

  1. What the programme is expected to achieve.
  2. What topics the programme will include.
  3. The number of days and the number of hours a day people will attend.
  4. Who the participants will be. (Where they work, what level they teach, their qualifications and experience.)
  5. Where the course will be held and what facilities will be available to you.
  6. Whether you will be able to make photocopies.
  7. Whether they can provide an office or at least a desk for your use and whether you will have access to a PC with a printer. (You will invariably have to prepare additional material during the programme.)
  8. Whether any form of assessment will be required.
  9. Whether any kind of certification is required?
  10. How the programme will be validated.

You can then prepare your seminar or course programme.

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If you have to travel to where the course is to take place, you need to be there at least a couple of working days before the start. This is essential in order to meet the local sponsors/organisers and check that your understanding of what you are expected to do is still in line with their expectations. You may well have some negotiating to do! Having sorted this out, you need time in order to:

1.  Check what the expected number of participants is. This can obviously help with the final stage of your preparation, but don’t arrange things too precisely because you will almost certainly have more or fewer people turning up than expected.

2.  Look at the information sent to participants. Is it correct? Does it tell them where to come and at what time?

3.  Do all the photocopies you will need for the entire programme. (At least the expected number plus 5.) If you cannot do them locally you will have to have brought them with you.

4.  Visit the room(s) you will be working in. Check any available facilities and the furniture. If the chairs and desks are fixed to the floor (or chained together as I found in Tanzania), try to negotiate for another room where this is not the case. Work out how you will re-arrange the furniture if necessary. Depending on the expected number of participants you will want either a conference table lay-out for up to about 16 participants, or sets of tables for groups of 4/5 spread round the room. Ideally, you want a room large enough to be able have a variety of seating arrangements and sufficient open space for people to move about in.

5.   Check the cleanliness of the room and, if necessary, insist that it is cleaned before the programme starts.

6.   Check that the board is clean or can be cleaned and that you know where to get supplies of chalk or pens. (You should always bring an emergency supply of these, anyway.)

7.  If teaching aids are available, meet the person responsible for supplying them, agree on your requirements and make clear arrangements for getting any necessary equipment to your room or for access to specialist rooms where the equipment can be used. Check on the availability of consumables such as disks, tapes and OHP transparencies.

8.  If the institution has a library, visit it and get yourself introduced to the staff.

9.  Find out who keeps the key for the seminar room and what you do when you arrive and find the room locked.

10. Try to meet the caretaker and establish friendly relations.

11. Meet the people responsible for the local administration of the programme. Who will be keeping a register of attendance? Do the participants have to pay any fees? If so, who will be collecting these and how?

12. Find out about the security situation in the building. Can people leave things in the room during breaks?

13. Check what catering arrangements have been made. Do the local organisers know when you are going to have coffee and lunch breaks? Where do you go for these services?

14. Check on the location of toilets.

15. If you were promised an office or a desk, find out where it is and make sure you can have access to it throughout the programme.

16. Find out what computer facilities there are and how you can have access to them. Do you need a password?

17. Find out if there is expected to be an official opening (and closing) ceremony. Adjust your first (and last) morning timetable accordingly.