“I apologise to those up the back. You may not be able to see the slides clearly”, said our trainer. “You might want to come closer.”

Does this scene in a corporate setting seem familiar? It does to me. I have reluctantly sat through far too many presentations which had an intent of changing my view about, or improving my knowledge of, a topic where these were the opening lines. Worse still, I have sat through formal training sessions which had the intent of improving my skills and changing my behaviour that started out with the same refrain.

When I hear comments like that, I know two things are wrong with the design of the training.

One is that the trainer or presenter did not consider the layout of the room in designing the delivery method.

The other is that, to the trainer, it is important that I can read words on a screen or see detailed graphics on a screen. In designing training, it should never be important for me to read words on a screen or observe detailed graphics on a screen. If it is important for me to read words in order to learn, then give me the words in a more friendly format than on a screen. Give them to me in a format I can read again later to ensure I have understood their meaning. Perhaps on paper or on a computer screen with a softcopy file I can take away.

The third aspect I suspect is going to wrong with the training is that I will be subject to death by PowerPoint. Shudder!

In designing training so that it is a learning experience, there are a number of elements that are fundamental, in my view, to good design and good delivery. They are:


  • Know what success looks like:
    • Personal change
      • Changes in behaviour?
      • Improved technical capability?
      • Improved product knowledge?
      • Ability to assess and interpret data?
      • Ability to develop strategy?
      • Ability to execute strategy?
    • Business outcome
      • Improved sales?
      • Reduced cost?
      • Reduced turnaround time?
      • Reduced customer complaints?
      • Improved employee satisfaction?
  • Be able to measure success or otherwise to enable continuous improvement in training design and delivery
  • Chunk learning to match the knowledge, skills and behaviour of the participants. Teach one concept at a time
  • Use the following as a default design for each learning chunk:
    • Explain concept
    • Practice by doing or respond to a case study or… (L Plate learning)
    • Demonstrate or explain theory or process
    • Practice with improved knowledge or skills (P plate learning)
  • Incorporate movement (at least every thirty minutes). People get bored sitting still and listening and tend to switch off
  • Use competition amongst teams and possibly, individuals. Competition which requires aspects of knowledge or skills to be demonstrably learnt has a great chance of motivating people to learn
  • Mix the modes of learning; e.g. learning by:
    • Doing (activities/role plays/projects)
    • Reflection
    • Case studies
    • Quizzes
    • Q&A panels
    • Self-paced work books or e-learning
  • Match the mode to what needs to be learned
    • E.g. Do not teach oral or motor skills by reflective methods, use doing activities
  • Avoid PowerPoint unless it adds value and interacts with participants. The alternative is to have participants focusing on the slide rather than what is spoken
  • If you are using participant guides get rid of all the unnecessary clutter, for example words guiding them on their role as a learner. Tell them about their role instead. Design the participant guide to be appealing and to be something they want to keep and can reference easily in the future
  • Layer learning from simple demonstration/experience of the concept/theory to more complex situations/interactions that demonstrate the range of variations from the norm that participants will experience. Stretch participant’s ability/knowledge as far as necessary to replicate what they will see in their day-to-day job
  • Avoid acronyms and mnemonics unless participants have many opportunities during and after the training to use the acronym/mnemonic and relate it to what the words mean. Most acronyms/mnemonics are forgotten except for the first two to three letters and many times other words are substituted making the acronym/mnemonic represent a different phrase or set of words altogether. Teach participants the process or the logical progression represented by the acronym/mnemonic in words and sentences using a layered learning approach. For example, the LEARN method of dealing with customer complaints should be Listen, Empathise, Acknowledge, Resolve, Nothing outstanding. It soon morphs into Listen, Enquire…?
  • Measure results of the learning experience (see bullet point on what success looks like) in one or more pilots and use the plan-do-check-act cycle of continuous improvement to fine tune the learning
  • ” Follow up training within six weeks with something which reminds people of what they learned e.g.:
    • Assessment/quiz
    • e-learning
    • On-the-job learning
    • Buddy/coach/mentor activities
    • Case studies
  • Do not change the design based on anecdotal feedback, change it on the basis of good qualitative or quantitative research.


  • Use believable facilitators
  • Train the facilitators in how to use the material
  • Keep easy line of sight from facilitators to participants
  • Arrange rooms to allow facilitators to move easily to close proximity with participants – cabaret works best, U-shape is serviceable, board-room is poor
  • Allow breaks every ninety minutes
  • Link learning to participant’s experiences
  • Involve all participants.

Sticking to as many of these principles as you can almost guarantees success in delivering good learning outcomes.