What kind of facilitator are you designing for?

A few weeks ago I asked: “What kind of facilitator are you?” and I shared this model:

As part of this post, I also asked the following two poll questions:

Into which quadrant do you think that you fall?

Into which quadrant do the people you design training for generally fall?

If you haven’t had a chance to respond to those questions, I invite you to share your thoughts now by selecting the choices that best fit you and your situation. The answers I’ve received so far offered some interesting data points.

In response to the question: “Into which quadrant do you think you fall?”, blog readers grouped themselves into the following categories:

  • Quadrant A (0%)
  • Quadrant B (17.4%)
  • Quadrant C (50.0%)
  • Quadrant D (32.6%)

Since most Train Like A Champion blog readers are in the world of learning and development in some way, shape or form, it wasn’t altogether surprising that nobody self-reported as falling into Quadrant A (low content knowledge, low application of adult learning). The more interesting results came from the next question.

“Into which quadrant do the people you design training for generally fall?”

  • Quadrant A (29.3%)
  • Quadrant B (41.5%)
  • Quadrant C (12.2%)
  • Quadrant D (7.3%)
  • I only design for myself (9.8%)

Since about 90% of people are either sometimes or always designing for someone else, and about 70% of the time they’re designing for people who typically do not apply principles of adult learning to their presentations, there are some things we instructional designers need to keep in mind. This is even more important nowadays while most presentations are being delivered virtually because many people are still not comfortable with virtual delivery.

In the world of instructional design, we talk a lot about assessing the needs of our learners. Let’s not forget to address the needs of our presenters. Here are several important concepts to keep in mind.

Don’t design for yourself. Just because you can masterfully facilitate discussion and give activity instructions with ease doesn’t mean that a subject matter expert, people manager or department representative can do the same thing with a training plan that you’ve developed.

Take into account a presenter’s comfort level when speaking in front of other people, experience with the topic and fluency in navigating conversations. While lecture may not be the most exciting way to present information, there’s usually a time and place for it. In addition, be sure instructions and debrief questions for any activity are clearly spelled out and leave no room for ambiguity.

Presenters need to understand why principles of adult learning are important. If you want a presenter to use dialogue and/or activities to engage the learners, you may need to find a way to educate them on the important of adult learning principles and the difference between hearing a concept and having an opportunity to discuss or do something with the concept.

I’ve worked with many Quadrant A and Quadrant B presenters who are busy people. They’re smart people. They learned when someone else told them about a concept, so why can’t everyone else learn the same way? Remember, even when you design something that’s engaging, it doesn’t mean the presenters will actually use your activities or your plan, especially if they don’t understand why they can’t just tell people something.

Sharing some information about how best to make information relevant and strategies that can help learners see how the concepts can solve a problem for them can help presenters buy-in to the need to do more than just talk at their audience.

Presenters do not need to be experts on adult learning. Don’t overdo it when it comes to how much information you offer your presenters on the importance of adult learning principles. Make sure they buy-in to the concept, then give them a clear set of instructions, training plan, lesson plan or Facilitator Guide that helps them to easily navigate your design.

What else should instructional designers keep in mind when designing for someone else? If you have a tip or lesson learned, add it to the comment section.


Looking for an easy way to generate training activities and facilitator guides for yourself or for the presenters you’re working with? You may want to give Soapbox a try.

Once you know how long you have to deliver a presentation, how many participants to expect, your room set up and your learning objectives, Soapbox will generate an entire lesson plan for you that includes activities, easy to understand instructions and slides.

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