Business Communication · Employee Coaching · Leveraging Skills & Knowledge · Organizational Development

Training Tips for the Occasional Trainer

I was recently asked to observe a training and provide feedback for the facilitators. Training is not their main job – it is an event they participate in annually. I thought it might be useful for you if I share the notes I provided for them. If this list sparks questions for you, you can email me at and I’d be happy to provide suggestions.

Training Recommendations

I observed the fourth day of training. My observations may or may not match what occurred on other days. On this day facilitators “talked at” participants with a minimum of participant engagement, for more than an hour at a time, and in the afternoon – more than two hours.

On the day of my visit, there were four facilitators, all of whom brought terrific positive energy to the room. Different facilitators “jumped in” to provide insights based on his experiences. Initially the one main facilitators was up front, with the other three gentlemen on one side of the room. I recommended they stand around the room, spreading their “leadership vibes” around the room and driving participant attention through their presence.

Recommendation: revise delivery method.

  1. Present concept, 15 minute max as rule
  2. Instead of asking a series of “guess-the-right answer” or “yes/no” questions, ask open-ended questions which encourage participation based on participant’s experiences and thoughts. Ask the group at large some questions and then use questions to engage individuals. Watch the room. Call on people who are checked out. Validate answers.

There were 40 people in this training, all of whom are used to jobs that keep them on the move. Sitting for several hours is a challenge for them. When people have questions, consider asking them to stand up instead of raising hands – create activity for group in class setting. Also helps you track who has questions, especially when you have a large group.

  1. Activity – practical application exercise gives participants opportunity to practice concept. If there isn’t space enough to work in small groups, partner discussions is one way to meet the goal of participant activity on average every 20 minutes. After exercises, different groups can be called on to report out on their findings, experiences, insights, etc. Since this group is used to physical activity, and the training room was small for the number of people, I was imagining sending them outside in teams of four for discussions, on a timeline that would have required them to hustle (not for every discussion, but definitely for the first one of the morning). It is important to engage people right from the start of each day of training.

Participants were given binders and usb drives with training content. During the training, participants were not directed to utilize the binder materials, primarily because facilitator content might not have aligned exactly with the binder content, though the subjects did. During my review of the binder materials, I saw there is a lot of jumping around in the binder based on “If this, what would you do?” Turn to page…(based on multiple choice answers), a minimum of graphics, sometimes long paragraphs and full pages of straight text.

Put your organization mission and values at the front of your printed materials, not buried somewhere in the content. Start here, as the driving force behind what you do and link the mission and values to the training agenda.

Recommendation: overhaul the training materials, including participant work sheets to engage learners in capturing content shared by facilitators. For example, when presenting leadership traits: “Turn to page xx in your binder and fill in your worksheet for the ten leadership traits.” After a review of the traits: “Table one, you will discuss how the first two traits specifically apply to (this organization) and why those two traits are critical in the work we do,” or something like that. And then, “Choose a spokesperson for your team to report out in 10 minutes.”

The binder is an important participant engagement tool that could be redesigned to capture the training experience and become a valuable resource participants could refer back to after returning to work. I recommend leading with the Mission and Values on day one, and using that information as the foundation for all content to follow.

Recommendation: start each session with some type of exercise that might mimic in a fun way the type of thing this audience is used to at work (put a spin on it each day so they don’t know exactly what to expect). Instead of being random, have the exercise link to the content theme for that day. The point is to get them in the TRAINING READINESS zone! Sit up! Pen in hand, ready to take notes! Act like a leader right here, even in the way you sit in this room and attend training.

Recommendation: prior to showing videos set audience up with expectations. What is the goal, what are they to do, recognize, be ready for? How will they be held accountable to the content afterward? On what page in the binder should they take video notes?

Observation: PowerPoint was not utilized due to concern of “death by PPT”. As a result, valuable visual opportunities to link facilitator content to images was lost. People stared off into space, and several struggled to stay awake.

Recommendation: create effective presentations for each topic. Heavy on images that include content markers for reference, definitely listing any processes to be covered, with no slides too heavy in text; the presentation is an important resource for visual learners. As it was, participants were required (sometimes for more than an hour at a time) to just sit there and listen. For most adult learners, this is not effective. Presentations can be effectively used  to engage learners. Using the presentation will eliminate the need for facilitators to read from books or handouts, which totally disconnected them from the audience.

On the day I attended, video clips from various sources and professionally produced training videos were used during the training – great! Although the videos may have been dated, the concepts were applicable.

I understand seating was rotated on the first day, bringing people forward. It’s a good idea to have participants sit in a different seat every day and thereby work with different people every day.

When training specific scenarios, it seemed content was a bit generalized. It’s useful to provide specific dialogue, and again, have participants capture your “script” in their binders. For example, when discussing drug tests and a person asked, “What do you say?” Provide specific dialogue: “It’s great news that your test came back clear. That eliminates one variable. Moving forward, I’m concerned about you. Although you aren’t intoxicated, your behaviors are an issue. (review behaviors) Please help me understand, why do you think these behaviors are going on?”

Facilitation tips: summarize key points and create application of principles before moving on to next topic.

Recommendation: before lunch validate learning from morning and do same thing during last ½ hour of day. Methods include quizzes, teach backs, homework assignment that kicks off next morning, etc. You can change the methods daily to maintain interest.

You move on to next topic/section. Everyone participates and proves understanding.

What would you do?

What would you say?

When your special guest arrived, he (and the audience) endured 2 hrs for Q&A based on questions captured earlier from participants: can we get creative and assist with a different approach? Example: Jeopardy board on wall with post-its, “I’ll take Salaries for $500,” or something symbolic of the work you do…we can discuss how to achieve goal of employees expressing their concerns and getting questions answered, but change the framework.

What’s bugging you at work? Recommend you don’t plan to end each day on this negative note. Instead end on upbeat note! Recommend you don’t bring this subject up every day. We can work with you on options for giving people a voice, responding, and structuring it in a way that is driven by a positive approach and learning opportunities.

Recommendations for training delivery: there are several topics in the training agenda for the week which could be co-facilitated with Training Place trainers and your subject matter experts. Examples include: communication, time management, workplace professionalism/ethics, problem analysis, motivation, leadership, and team building. We could create job scorecards, provide employee coaching specifics including action plans for returning back to work, assigned team building meetings, etc.

Fantastic use of team activities building something in scenarios that mimic their real life work experience! Using Tinker Toys, Legos, spaghetti and marsh mellows – or a variety of other building materials, gives people an opportunity to interact in ways they aren’t used to. Be sure to summarize key learning points at end of each activity.

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