What’s the value of a train the trainer session?

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One of my favorite topics to design and deliver is presentation skills. When people present better, they have the opportunity to change the world.

Over the past few years, as I reflect on these sessions, I’ve begun to question the value. Is a presentation skills or train the trainer session worth the investment of time and money? Too often, when I peek in on what people are doing after attending such a session, I would have to say: no, the investment of time and money wasn’t worth it.   Continue reading

Is it really a train the “trainer” session? Or is it a train the “SME” session?


Last week I was talking with a colleague who made a distinction between what she perceives her team as doing compared to what some other teams do. She said: “We really view our team as educators, while there are other teams that get out into the field and don’t even care about who the audience is, they simply have a slide deck and they’re going to walk the audience through the slide deck. We call them presenters, as opposed to educators.”

I normally don’t get too caught up in language and vocabulary and semantics, but this was an important point. Perhaps more importantly, this was coming from an operational manager, not someone in the L&D department. This wasn’t just “inside baseball” talk among training geeks. Continue reading

Train-the-Trainer Course Outline

What is a Train-the-Trainer Outline?

This train the trainer program outline is designed to help non-training professionals or part-time trainers design and/or deliver a presentation that can be more engaging than a traditional “I speak and you listen” training format. By inserting more engaging learning activities, every presenter has a better chance that their content will be retained, and therefore acted upon.

The following train-the-trainer workshop was developed by working with groups of full-time and part-time trainers.

Train-the-Trainer Pre-work

Why?  Having learners begin to think about the session before they come can generate enthusiasm and pique curiosity.  I try to keep any pre-work short and simple.

Learning Style Inventory

I’ve found this Learning Style Inventory to be helpful.  Instead of taking up 10 valuable minutes of the actual train-the-trainer workshop time having learners fill this out, I like to have them fill this out beforehand.  I also am sure to have a few extra copies on the day of the training for those who forget to do this or forget to bring it with them.

Survey with Four Key Questions

How do you know if your learners are “getting it”?  How have you gotten training to “stick”?  What is your learning style?  What are you expecting to take away from this session?

These questions help me to gauge where my learners are coming into the session.  If I can’t email my learners with these questions beforehand, I’ll hang four flipcharts around the room and ask my learners to write their answers to these questions as they enter the room at the beginning of the day.

Train-the-Trainer Workshop

To get through the following will take at least one full day.  If you don’t have a full day to work with your audience, you’ll need to prioritize.  It’s a bad idea to try to fit all of the following content into a 1- or 2-hour session.

Part 1: Welcome/Introductions

Why?  It sets the tone and models the atmosphere you’d like to see your learners create when they begin a training session.  This is an opportunity to make sure your learners know what they’re in for, to announce where the bathrooms are, to briefly de-brief the pre-work and to generally break the ice.

Part 2: How Training Sticks

Why? It’s very important that train-the-trainer participants understand their role in whether or not training will be transferred onto the job… and that they understand that even the best-designed and best-facilitated training will not guarantee transfer to the job.  I often refer to this short article by Bob Pike in order to frame this conversation.

Part 3: Adult Learning Theory

Adult learning theory in train-the-trainerWhy? If trainers want to be able to deliver high-quality learning experiences consistently, then they’ll need a foundation in what works and what doesn’t in how adults learn and process information.  Here I like to introduce the work of Malcolm Knowles and Jane Vella.  This is also where I delve into the idea of learning styles.

Read more about why I still teach learning styles.

Warning: GO DEEP INTO THEORY AT YOUR OWN RISK.  While adult learning theory may fascinate people in the learning and development field, most others don’t care.  Any adult learning theory needs to go light on the theory and heavy in the application.  When I discuss learning styles, I have participants brainstorm how they’d touch on each style in their next presentation.  When I talk about Knowles’ concept of relevance, I insist that participants give me an elevator speech about why their audience should care about their topic.

Part 4: Instructional Design Basics

Why? This is actually an optional section if your train-the-trainer course is designed to teach others how to facilitate a curriculum that’s already been developed.  But if your train-the-trainer audience is made up of people who are responsible for creating and delivering presentations, then instructional design basics is a must-have element.

I do not touch on instructional design models such as ADDIE here.  I do however spend time discussing training session design steps, training lesson plans and the importance of learning objectives.

Part 5: Practice with Feedback

Why? This is where the rubber meets the road.  Are the trainers that you’re training actually any good?  You won’t know until you challenge them with getting in front of an audience and practicing their delivery.  Providing structured, specific feedback is key to making this effective.  Often participants (and some train-the-trainer facilitators) are hesitant to provide feedback that could be construed as critical.  Having a training effectiveness checklist that identifies specifically what successful facilitation looks like could help mitigate this factor.

Optional Train-the-Trainer Add-ons

Training Evaluation

I don’t spend too much time on this particular section as post-training feedback forms offer little value and deeper training effectiveness is often more the responsibility of a manager than a trainer.  If trainers will be responsible for training evaluation, training in this area would require an additional, significant chunk of time.

Additional Content Review

Sometimes it helps if the trainer knows a little more about the topic he/she will be facilitating, especially if it’s a technical subject or a new piece of software.  Training on sensitive subjects such as diversity will also benefit from a facilitator with a deeper understanding of the complexities of the issue.

Future Use

Don’t forget to leave your new and aspiring trainers with tools to help them remember this learning experience.  The following items can help significantly with transfer of skills to the job:

  • Job aids such as templates, lesson plans or training design checklists
  • Foundational resources such as books, magazines, trade journals or professional associations
  • Just-in-time resources such as your email address or quick reference materials like this blog

Other Train-the-Trainer Resources:

Icebreaking Activity: How To Introduce Knowles’ Theory on Adult Education

No Train-the-Trainer class would be complete without mentioning Malcolm Knowles and his theory on how adults learn.  Unless your audience is full of true training geeks, not many people are going to dote on the theory part.  They want to connect the theory to their jobs, how it’s going to help them better reach their audiences, how it can be applied in real life.  And they want all of this to take effect tomorrow, whether or not they can regurgitate what Knowles had to say. Continue reading

Supervisor, Supervisor What Do You See?

I spent a lot of money getting a masters degree in pursuit of the question: how do you get training to “stick”?  I wish someone had simply given me a textbook that went something like this… 


Supervisor, supervisor, what do you see?

I see a skills gap looking at me.

 Skills Gap

Skills gap, skills gap, what do you see?

I see some new professional development goals looking at me.


Professional development goals, professional development goals, what do you see?

I see well-constructed learning objectives looking at me.

 Action-oriented learner-centered objectives

Learning objectives, learning objectives, what do you see?

I see participants who will be able to explain, describe and demonstrate skills to me.


Participants, participants, what do you see?

I see a presenter who knows how to engage me.


Presenter, presenter, what do you see?

I see flipcharts, case studies, role plays, simulations, videos and just a touch of PowerPoint looking at me.


Training materials, training materials what do you see?

I see learners ready to transfer new skills engaged with me.

Ready for transfer

Learners, learners, what do you see?

I see…

  • A variety of well-put together training materials
  • Skilled and polished presenters
  • A roomful of engaged learners
  • Action-oriented, learner-focused objectives
  • Professional goals aligned with the learning objectives
  • A clear skills gap to fill
  • And a supervisor who – both before and after the training – knows how to support me

That’s what I see!

I See Everything

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The Key to Training Success in Exactly One Word

Employees return from a conference with energy and enthusiasm and new ideas only to drown in a tidal wave of voicemail and email messages waiting for them.  A new LMS is rolled out to great fanfare only to have enthusiasm fizzle three months down the road.

The more I work on training projects, the more I’m convinced that there is one word, one concept, one key ingredient that will ultimately determine the success or failure of a training initiative: momentum.


This thought was inspired, in part, when I read this recent post by blogger Ashley Robinson.  I encourage you to check out the entire post, but basically she shares the idea of not getting bogged down in this season of New Year’s Resolutions and instead offers the idea of committing to one word.  It sounds like a simple concept, but whittling down a bunch of thoughts and ideas and arguments and data into one word is quite a challenge.  It requires careful consideration and reflection on how to get to the most fundamental element of the matter.

Arguments can certainly be made that training will succeed or fail based upon sound instructional design, incorporating adult learning principles, establishing a relationship between the trainer/learner/learner’s manager, ensuring any learning intervention has a direct connection to professional development goals or identified learning gaps.

In the end, I believe that it can all be boiled down to momentum.  In order to create momentum, learning should indeed be fun (for more on this, check out Juliette Denny’s recent post), learning should indeed have good design, it should include managers in the process, learning should include effective assessments and take-home job aids.

But if all of these elements haven’t created momentum for the learning to be transferred to the job, the success and stickiness of training will surely fizzle.

A good question to keep in mind the next time you’re gearing up to design a presentation or training program is: how will my presentation facilitate momentum?