The AFH (Attendee from Hell)
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The AFH (Attendee from Hell)

I make a living from business consulting and facilitating award higher education courses and seminars for executives. I enjoy my work. My consulting keeps me current and provides case studies for my classes, and my facilitation ensures that I have a wide knowledge base, which I in turn use in my consulting work.


An Unusual Attendee – Before Class

Here is a humorous, but stressful, story. I facilitated a technical course and had about twenty senior executives in the class. I like to greet the attendees individually as they arrive. One attendee started telling me his life story, how great a practitioner he was and how he was an understudy to a very famous person, and he kept on going and going and would not let me go.


In Class

In class he started rambling about the course. I thanked him and asked him to allow time for others. Not my lucky day. I said that he and I could talk about it during the break. To no avail. I recall a lady saying “Hey, we came to hear him speak, and not you.”


He would not stop.

He would not stop. I asked him to stop, or I would ask him to leave. He ignored me. I stood in front of him and asked him to leave, or I would call security. Fortunately, the gods were with me, and he said nothing.


After the morning break

After the morning break, he started again. I asked him to leave and if he did not do so I would immediately call security. He stopped talking for the rest of the morning.


After lunch

After lunch, he asked a question. I thought that he had paid to attend, and had been quiet, so I gave him one minute to speak and asked the lady who spoke up before to time him. As you can imagine he made up for lost time and became a motormouth. The lady advised me when the minute was up, and I stopped him, but he refused to stop. I asked him to immediately leave the room and if he did not, I would call security to remove him. My lucky day, he did not say a word for the rest of the day.


The next day

The next day as we were preparing for class, he came up to me and apologised for how he had acted, saying that he said he was under stress. He said that he would not say anything that day.


How should I react?

I thought it better for all, and more professional, to make this a win-win situation. I was pleasant to him saying we all have our off days but reminded him that he needed to be reasonable in class, otherwise, I would not hesitate to have him removed. He promised me he would behave, and he did.



What would you have done?

Be prepared for the good and the bad. Remember that as a facilitator you need to consider things such as duty of care and professionalism. Fortunately, I am patient, professional, client-driven and not a hot head and it all worked out well. There were no deaths or injuries in that two-day class.


Associate Professor Cyril Jankoff is Associate Dean, Scholarship; an Associate Director, Undergraduate Studies; and a Fellow of the Centre for Scholarship and Research (since 2021)