Conduct an Effective Training Session
It’s time to get the show on the road! Learn the 12-step Method for Successful Training to help you organize an effective training session that accomplishes your goals in an enjoyable and engaging way for everyone involved.

Everything and everyone is as prepared as possible for training. You know your training needs, you’ve set goals, gotten management behind you, promoted your training schedule, and prepared materials, space, and people. It’s time to get the show on the road!

The 12-Step Method for Successful Training

Follow these 12 steps to help you run an effective training session that accomplishes your goals in an enjoyable and engaging way for everyone involved.

  1. Tell trainees what you’re going to cover. Introduce your session with a brief overview of the training subject’s main points.
  2. Give them the information. In the main portion of the session, explain key points, go over policies, demonstrate procedures, and relate any other information trainees need to know.
  3. Tell them what you told them. Conclude with a summary of your opening overview. Use repetition to help trainees grasp and retain information.
  4. Always explain what trainees are going to see before you show a multimedia portion. This practice creates a better learning environment by guiding trainees to know what to look for and what to remember. Explaining the purpose of the multimedia ensures an effective reception for its information.
  5. Use as much hands-on training as possible. The most effective training uses all the senses to affect learning. Demonstrate and apply teaching points to create greater understanding and knowledge of the subject.
  6. Test frequently. Tests are most effective when students know they will be quizzed, because they’ll pay close attention to the material. Testing is an objective way to determine whether training achieved its goals.
  7. Involve trainees. For example, ask participants to share their experiences with the training topic. Many trainees are experienced personnel who have valuable information to contribute. All trainees will get more out of sessions by hearing about their co-workers’ experiences with the subject—and not just the trainer’s lecture points. Hearing different voices also keeps sessions varied and interesting. Structure interaction time into all your sessions.
  8. Repeat questions before answering them. This practice ensures that all participants know what the question is so they can make sense of the answer.
  9. Analyze the session as you go. Always be on the lookout for what works best. When you discover a new technique or method that clicks with the group, note it on your training materials so it can be incorporated into the training outline to be used in future sessions.
  10. Keep your session on track. Start on time and finish on time. Don’t hold up class waiting for late arrivers. Run the class according to the schedule and don’t get too far off course. Opening up discussion among participants may lead to some pertinent tangents, but don’t let side issues take over. Ask if there’s enough interest to pursue a separate session on that topic, but get this class back to the lesson plan.
  11. Put yourself in their shoes—or seats. Give frequent breaks, especially for half-day or all-day sessions.
  12. Solicit feedback on the training session. Critiques work best when they are written and anonymous, unless a trainee volunteers to discuss his or her thoughts in person. Trainee input is vital for making the next session—and the overall training program—more effective.

These 12 steps are the basic foundation for a solid training session that runs efficiently and that conveys the necessary information for meeting the session’s goals. They also incorporate ways to begin improving training on the fly. In other words, you can’t go wrong by following these steps in every training session you run.
It is possible, however, to get a little more creative—and memorable—by using some of the following innovative techniques.

Make Training Memorable

Here are some softer training methods that are not necessarily essential to conveying information, but that can make receiving data or instructions a much more enjoyable experience, which will keep trainees involved and help them retain more information.

  • Make learning fun. Why? Trainees will not be enthusiastic if training sessions are dry and dull. Few employees respond to or remember complicated concepts or theories; they want to learn practical information about what they can do to get better results today. If they don’t find the message entertaining, they won’t retain it. Since variety is the spice of life, use several different training methods to engage trainees in a variety of ways. Also work to alternate the pace of each session to keep trainees’ interest level high.
  • Use humor. Humor helps keep enthusiasm at peak levels. Trainers can make a point more effectively by using humor than by drowning trainees in statistics or theories. Avoid telling jokes, however, because humor is so subjective that someone in your audience may be offended and lose track of training for the rest of the session. Personal, self-deprecating humor is the safest way to go.
  • Use attractive packaging. Use materials that are well-packaged and that communicate value. Professional packaging is a powerful tool for setting a good first impression.
  • Encourage participation. Make the session lively by engaging participants in the learning process. In fact, try to spend close to 80 percent of training time on group participation. Encourage everyone in the training session to speak freely and candidly, because learning occurs most readily when feelings are involved.
  • Build self-esteem. Employees understandably want to know what’s in it for them. They know that most training programs are designed to make money for the company, but rarely does training lift employees’ spirits or help them to become better in their own lives. Create a win-win environment by using the training program to build the participants’ self-worth and self-esteem.

These are all effective techniques for running a successful session, but what kind of person does it take to do the training? The best trainers have several qualities that make them good at what they do. Check the list below to see which qualities you already possess—and to determine which areas you could improve.

Qualities of Effective Trainers

While some of these qualities are obviously necessary for anyone in a teaching position, others may not seem as necessary, such as being patient or open-minded. All of these attributes, however, contribute to making top-notch trainers. All the best trainers are:

  • Good communicators. They speak well, express their thoughts clearly, and have an engaging presentation style.
  • Knowledgeable. They know their topic cold. They understand all the concepts and know all the details. They can answer questions thoroughly and at a level that trainees understand. If they ever can’t answer a question, they know exactly where to go to get that answer and they promise to do so as soon as possible.
  • Experienced. They know what they’re talking about. They’ve been in the field doing what they teach in training.
  • Good with people. Their personality styles may vary, but they enjoy working with people. They can engage groups of people and work with them to meet training goals.
  • Interested in learning. They recognize the value of learning in their own lives and want to help others learn. They find satisfaction in sharing with others the skills and knowledge they have acquired through hard work and persistence.
  • Patient. They understand that people learn in different ways and at different paces. They take the time to make sure each trainee understands what’s going on and leaves training sessions with the skills and knowledge he or she came to acquire.
  • Open-minded. They respect other people’s points of view and know that there are often many ways to achieve the same objectives. They don’t assume they know everything, but instead are willing to listen to and learn from trainees.
  • Creative. They bring ingenuity and their own natural curiosity to the task of training. They create an environment in their training sessions that encourages learning and inspires trainees to reach beyond what they already know to explore new ideas and methods.
  • Well-prepared. They know their material, their objectives, and their plan of presentation. They’ve checked to see that any equipment they expect to use in training is in place and operational. They’ve made sure that all supplies and supporting materials are available in the right quantities.
  • Flexible. They are able to adjust their training plan to accommodate their audience and still meet all training objectives.
  • Well-organized. Good trainers can handle several tasks at once. They know how to manage their time and their work.

Training Pitfalls

In an ideal world, training will always be successful. There are ways that training can go wrong, however, and forewarned is forearmed. This section alerts you to several training pitfalls—and gives you ways to avoid them.
According to a strategic planning workshop on human capital sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’s (NIEHS) Worker Education and Training Program (WETP), there are several possible problems that can lead to either trainer burnout and/or a less-than-successful training program. Here’s what can go wrong, along with ways to make it right:

How Trainers Develop Burnout

    • They get in a rut by always training the same topic.
    • They get in a rut by always using the same training methods.
    • They are discouraged because of management’s lack of support.
    • Their hands are tied by an inadequate budget.
    • They do not receive ongoing train-the-trainer instruction.
    • They do not receive proper materials or instruction for training across language barriers or cultural differences.
    • They do not get into the field enough to customize their training beyond book learning.

How to Keep Trainers Fresh

    • Rotate trainers onto different topics.
    • Encourage using a variety of training methods.
    • Promote your program to management and get their verbal and public support; ask management to personally encourage trainers.
    • Present a realistic and ambitious budget that provides for all your training needs.
    • Encourage and provide for ongoing training and career development for trainers.
    • Assess your training audience ahead of time and provide trainers with language-appropriate materials and cross-cultural information.
    • Arrange for trainers to visit the operations in which they train on a regular basis to keep current on new methods.

Why Training Programs Fail

    • No training goals are set.
    • Training goals are not in line with company goals.
    • No accountability measurements are set up for trainers or trainees.
    • Training is regarded as a one-time event and not as an ongoing need.
    • Little or no support is given from upper management.

How to Make Your Training Program Succeed

    • Set specific training goals with a committee that includes top management.
    • Align training goals directly with the company’s strategic and financial goals.
    • Set up an accountability system to measure the effectiveness of trainers and trainees; determine whether trainers successfully communicate information and whether trainees successfully apply what they’ve learned to improve their job performance.
    • Design a training schedule that includes ongoing training, such as beginner, intermediate, and advanced as well as refresher training. Incorporate this calendar into the company’s calendar of holidays and other company events.
    • Always have a representative from upper management on your training committee to ensure that training is an integral part of your company’s present and future plans for success.

Congratulations! You’ve now planned, prepared for, and run a training session and program. Now it’s time to find out how you did.