Top 10 Lessons Learned about being a Trainer

We have all experienced the painful training event. It looked like a good session on paper, the agenda seemed exciting, they had a fancy booklet and a great write up that hooked you to enroll. But now time is standing still and it has been 10 o’clock for the last hour.
Trainers need to remember that people show up at training events under a lot of stress to start the day off and they expect to see value right off the bat. They have heavy workloads and deadlines they are not taking care of because they invested a day to get training. High expectations are set that the training should help them cope better, but participants can become disenfranchised if the value is not evident quickly. Learners have different personalities and styles, which can cause some distracting clashes with an unprepared trainer, which can derail the event. Some trainees are there because they see the value in investing a day while other are there as prisoners since the boss told them to attend. The trainers have to be prepared to handle all the different needs, personalities, and distractions that may arise.
Recently one of the authors attended a painful training event and came up ten tips from a participant’s viewpoint to make any training event more successful. Before you undertake another training event think like a participant and design it using these ten tips:

#1. Allow Moments of Silence

If you ask people to read something or take a quiz, stop talking and let them understand what is in front of them. There is nothing worse than getting an information overload and having someone still talking while you try to understand the purpose of what is to be done.

#2. Get Small Groups Talking as soon as possible

If it is necessary to establish credibility, do so after some robust warm up discussions so that the start is not too sluggish. People like to know who else is in the room and how they will interact. An early morning exercise gets the blood flowing and the group awake.

#3. Sourced Citations Matter

Participants want to know if the material is credible - include citation as often as possible.

#4. Clarity of Purpose

Why is everyone in the room? The reason for training event needs to be shared and posted for the training at the beginning of the session – the who, what, when, and how of the event needs to be understood by the participants.

#5. Give Clear Instructions

Instructions need to be extremely clear especially for small group activities. The first thing the group says to each other should not be, "what are we supposed to do?"

#6. Energy Matters

The trainers have to have more enthusiasm than the group as a minimum. Energy is tied to the pace of the training. If there is no immediate pulse of the evident at the start the participants feel the dreaded dead zone and begin acting like Zombies who do not feel like participating.

#7. Start and Stop Times

Be extremely clear about start and stop times and stick to them. Nothing is worse than the 10 AM break happening at 10:45 AM and then the trainer saying we will have to cut it short since "we" are behind. Watch how many return on time?

#8. Room Design Matters

Be very thoughtful, planful, and directive about room design including seating. Never set up a training room with the door behind the speakers or half the participants facing in the direction away from the speaker.

#9. Know your Stuff

The trainers should state their qualifications up front and know the material. This is not a time for the company running the training to train new staff who are struggling with the material. Put them in the small group activities as a facilitator to get some experience.

#10. Facilitators/Trainers are Not the Servants of the Group

Successful trainers offer some level of protection, direction, and order. Being responsive to the unique needs of the group is indeed important. But the servant mindset can be experienced like watching a parent take directions from a toddler. The majority of the group does not want to participate in negotiations about length of breaks and does not want to be led down a wandering series by a dominating trainee.


The quality of any training effort is based largely on whether it is thought through and planned before any action is taken. Learning activities should clearly demonstrate to the trainee where he or she would benefit in their jobs. Quality training is built around the concept of nourishing those intrinsic motivators. Spend the time planning a good training event and the participants will think the time, energy, and money they invested gave them a good return on their investment.