An Interview with Norman Wei on Environmental Training

Interviewer: There are lots of training seminars out there. What sets you apart form others?

Norman: Well yes..there are lots of people doing training out there. What I do is a bit different from others. I teach my class on how to recognize problems and find solutions to solve these problems early. I tell a lot of stories based on my personal experience as a corporate environment manager. I tell them about my successes and failures when I was managing a worldwide environmental compliance program for a multi-national company. Many in my class are corporate managers and they relate to my stories.

Interviewer: How do present your material to the class. Many people use PowerPoint slides?

Norman: I use PowerPoint slides too. Actually I use Apple's Keynote which is similar to PowerPoint. The big difference between the way I present my material and how others do it is that I never use bullet points. I stick to one topic per slide and I speak to the slide. I show one short sentence or phrase with a relevant picture and I talk about that subject matter.

Interviewer: How is that better?

Norman: It is 100 times better because the audience will be focussed on THAT topic and THAT topic alone. They are not reading ahead on a slide with 12 bullet points. Once they start reading ahead, you lose the audience. They are not listening to you. They are reading the slides. And that's exactly what you don't want to see happen in any kind of presentation.

Interviewer: Does your class appreciate that form of presentation?

Norman: Yes they do. But you know, the process is so natural that many attendees never realize or recognize it. They just know that they are following a story line. I have had one attendee came up to me after the class and said to me "I don't know what you did. But you kept my attention throughout the entire session. I usually nod off about five minutes." That was the best compliment yet.

Interviewer: What level of experience do the attendees have in your class?

Norman: They come from a wide range. I have environmental managers with 25 years of experience looking for a refresher course. And then I have supervisors who have zero years of experience in the environmental field. They have just been "volunteered" to be responsible for their company's environmental program. So everything I talk about in the class is a brand new eye-opening experience for them. I also tell them that after my class, they will have sufficient knowledge to know to ask the right questions. So in addition to learning the basics of environment compliance, they will know what they don't know as opposed to not knowing what they don't know.

Interviewer: What is the one thing that you advise attendees to do when they are new to the field?

Norman: I always tell them not to be intimidated by all the regulations. I tell them that no one knows all the regulations. The key thing is to know how to find and understand the regulations. They need to know when to ask the right question. They need to set priorities in their compliance program. They need to focus on the issues that could cause them the most problems. They need to be on the lookout for emerging problems when they walk around the plants and tackle them as soon as possible.

Interviewer: So does that mean they should do regular environmental audits?

Norman: Yes and no. You should do regular audits as long as you know that you have the financial resources and corporate commitment to fix the problems identified in the audits. The reason is that if you fail to correct an environmental problem in a timely manner and it leads to serious harm or injuries, you would be looking at "knowing endangerment" type of criminal violations. The agencies are going to ask you why you fail to fix the problem when you discover it. If you don't have the money to fix the problems, don't do full audits. Just look for the most serious violations and work immediately to fix them. Do not create a paper trail.

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