Stylized line drawing of mark playing the flute

The most uncomfortable training session ever

Many moons ago, I was a developer for a market research company. Most of what I did involved data processing/analysis in SAS and a little bit of Python & PHP for online surveys.

Occasionally, though, I’d have to attend focus groups and handle whatever software we were using to gather responses.

At one point, one of our larger clients wanted us to take over doing their focus groups using an Audience response system.

If you don’t what that is, basically you have a presenter showing a series of slides with pictures, videos and questions. The audience members are asked a question on each slide, usually multiple choice or rating things on a scale from 1 - 10.

Each audience member has a little remote control that they use to punch in their responses.


There’s a box somewhere in the room that captures the responses and pipes all of the data into a piece of software that generates results in real-time.

Clients love this sort of thing because they can sit in the back room and get instantaneous results from the questions they’re asking.

At any rate, it was decided that I was going to be the person to become the expert on the system this client wanted us to use. The client had already purchased the entire system so all I had to do was pick it up and get trained on it.

Simple enough, right? But there was one little wrinkle.

This client was already paying another company to handle all of their audience response jobs.

So they were taking the business away from this company and giving it to ours.

And guess who I had the equipment I needed to pick up? And also guess who was going to be handling my training session?

The very same company that was losing a big account because of us.

I drove the two hours to the training site to a very chilly reception. They set me up in a conference room and dragged all of the boxes of equipment in.

Training consisted of a few printouts, a very rough overview of the system and then they left me alone. I got most of figured out on my own but I did have to wander around the office to find someone to answer a few questions.

When lunchtime rolled around, everyone in the office went off to eat. Understandably, I was not invited and ended up finding a decent Chinese place a few miles away.

I spent a few more hours in the afternoon getting the system fine-tuned before I packed up and headed for home.

We got a couple of years of use out of the equipment. My understanding is that the whole thing is now done using iPads.