The 7 things a training provider should never do

Posted on June 7, 2017 by

Everywhere you look, there is great advice on how to run training courses, what to do and how to do it. But no one tells you what not to do – those things that are guaranteed to disappoint or detract from your training.

So here is the top list of 7 things to never do:

  1. Don’t do Monday mornings or Fridays
    Obvious really, but it’s amazing how often courses are agreed without checking which day of the week they are on.
  2. Don’t create a 5 day course
    Delegates simply won’t put aside a full week to attend your training course. Their boss simply won’t allow it and if they are the boss, they won’t want to take a week out. Condense your 5 days content into 3 days.
  3. Don’t pin your hopes on public courses
    You won’t get the take up you are expecting, the training market has moved on – sorry!
  4. Don’t isolate your delegates
    Introduce your delegates to each other, get them to network together and create ways they can carry on their conversations after your training. Share their contact details with each other – with their permission.
  5. Don’t set overnight assignments
    Rather start the next day with a summary of the previous day. You avoid embarrassing those that didn’t have time or were not staying over, forgot or could not be bothered.
  6. Don’t immortalise one delegate
    Constantly referencing one of your delegates because you happen to know they are good in an area is guaranteed to embarrass that person and alienate the rest of your audience.
  7. Don’t overrun
    With child care charges of up to £5 per minute for overtime, you’re not making friends by overrunning. Finish 10 minutes early and offer your delegates the chance to join you for an informal coffee or drink.

43 responses to “The 7 things a training provider should never do”

  1. This is such sound advice for any trainer. I also think it is important to provide soft drinks and enough breaks, delegates can easily become overwhelmed and then they switch off meaning the trainer has to repeat things, which can get tiresome no matter how simple and straight forward the question.

  2. Very good advice, particularly about the open courses. I tried for years to run them with no success. Ruth’s idea of regular breaks is a must…so many delegates start to drift off after lunch. I believe being interactive with the delegates, using activities, video and their experiences of the subject taught helps to make for a vibrant atmosphere. Making light of situations were possible without detracting from the seriousness of the topic and getting people to smile all helps towards achieving a good learning experience.

  3. Nice to see that the first advice fits the way we run our training programs:
    7 days training programs are one day at a time with at least 21 days in between to practice. As we all now, it takes at least 21 days with training each day to establish a new habit. This looks promising.

  4. I particularly agree with ‘3. Don’t pin your hope on public courses’. We have never offered public courses because we always found that the power of a team to train together enhanced that team further and they were able to use a common language.

    I’m not totally in agreement with ‘1. Don’t do Monday mornings or Fridays’ because particularly for retail facing learners, this can be an ideal time when they are not needed by their supermarket buyer.

    I couldn’t agree more with ‘5. Don’t create a 5 day course’ because putting aside the learner availability issue, this type of learning does not take into account ‘spaced repetition’ and ultimately the behavioural change will be very limited. Ebbinghaus curve proved this over 100 years ago //

  5. I would add an 8th “don’t” as follows:

    Never have the same trainer speaking to the audience throughout the day. Logic is:
    Changing speakers from time to time wakes up people from time to time.

    • This is great if you have the option of more than one person, but this isn’t always possible…therefore for me it is about keeping it interesting especially after lunch like someone else has pointed out and plenty of breaks.

  6. Sage advice! I have so often worked with training providers who think it is OK to overrun which is at best disrespectful if not unprofessional. The training day is a contract between the delegates and the training provider, at the beginning of the day we give the delegates our aims and objectives for the day and timings for breaks, lunch and the time we will finish. When that contract is broken we lose all credibility, not to mention that the learning we give ‘after hours’ is most often ignored by people who want to go home.

  7. There were so many great suggestions – both in the article and in the comments.
    I have a couple more “nevers” to add.
    1. Don’t try to wing it. A training session is always much better when the trainer/facilitator is well prepared.
    2. Don’t leave them sitting in their seats all day. Plan activities that get them up and moving. Whether to join other participants in groups, take part in a game, or even to write something on a flip chart, movement is a great way to get enthusiasm and interest back.

  8. These are Great pointers to learn/reinforce from-good checklist for the Trainer plus 2 from Laura. @Geoffrey, a single facilitator/Trainer could be well managed with appropriate training tools as breaks(video calls to on-line facilitator/expert/industry or sector expert, or even as Laura mentioned well planned mix of activities-interactives etc. @Daren, that was a very thoughtful comment on customer retail facers re Fridays and Monday-it shows we have no room to be rigid but flexibility to suit class/audience/trainees noting group dynamics. Never heard of Ebbyinghaus curve-thanks, to be read up on.

  9. I particularly agree with the last point ‘don’t overrun’
    Ideally a training day should consist of four 90 minute sessions.
    There is some flexibility here but that is always my goal.
    20 to 30 minutes of theory or lecture
    20 to 40 minutes of activity or exercise
    20 to 30 minutes of feedback on the exercise
    Always seems to work well.
    and that way you CAN have one lecturer during the day.

    • I completely agree with this as I am the only trainer so don’t have the luxury of more than one person to talk.

    • Instead of offering a course for people within a single company, you can advertise a course that anyone can attend just by signing up. So the course might have many different people from different organisations.

      • In my expereince it is dependant on the course topic whether open public courses really work – If you offer legislative lead training (first aid, Health and safety, industry specifics – electrical, plumbing etc) it is far easier. If you offer personal development courses you will need to market more aggresively to achieve the same outcome.

        • I agree with Jackie on this one. Amongst other things we regularly run public courses for those looking to attain the certificate in mortgage advice and practice (cemap).
          In addition there is no way you can scale module 1 which lasts 5 days down into a 3 day course without short-changing the students. So there are some exceptions to no 1,2 &3 on the list.
          Apart from those the other pointers are pretty spot on.

  10. As a specialist engineering training provider, fully agree with the comments from Geoff M. and others that you have to mix up theory and practice – our courses are mainly practical and delegates consistently tell us they enjoy those parts the most.
    Would question the idea of compressing 5 days into 3 though for our sector. Engineering skills take time to practice and sink in, so the quality and the value of the training mustn’t be lost in an attempt to rush through a programme.

  11. Yes – some very good tips – and not running over is a good tip – I aim to finish 10 mins early and have invited people for a coffee afterwards and this works really well.

    Thank you

  12. Using Sociometry can help build connection and safety when the course begins, and through the meeting time, as it gets people up and moving and helps them gain self-insight. Action games are particularly effective after lunch when course attendees are tired. People lose interest quickly when a presenter uses the dreaded power point, but if the teaching is done in action and anchored in the body, it not only helps the information to “land” for them, but when they leave the training, the teaching is much more accessible.

    • Hi Jean,

      Thank you for your recommendations on best training practice.

      Ensuring that learners can build relationships whilst undertaking a training course will dramatically improve their overall learning experience. Getting people on their feet and talking is a great way to build their confidence and also open their mind to new ways of working.


    • I like the sound of Action games and sociometry as dynamic methods. I have used some improv games for fun and movement with varying success and would like these to be more clearly linked to the training material. Do you have any useful links that shows how to use these methods in training?

  13. Hi Everyone,

    Thank you for your all your comments! It is great to find out how everyone agrees and disagrees with us.

    We like to read you best trainer recommendations, so please continue to post your greats comments about what works for you and how.

  14. Totally agree with you. Yet, public course telesales is an excellent way to get top management information- Ive used this trick for years- knowing I would not run a public course, yet it gets my company name around to those I want to matket at a later stage.

    • This sounds interesting but I’m not quite sure what you mean! Would you mind explaining a bit further please?!

  15. To be honest I was surprised at this basic advice. If people need to heed this to have success I would be concerned at their skills level and ability to provide L & D events in the first place. Points 4, 6 and 7 state the obvious – surely people responsible for helping others learn should know these and I think there are more fundamental reasons than those stated. 1, 2 and 5 have huge assumptions behind them. I agree with Point 3 to some extent but if you have to ‘pin your hopes’ on one L & D solution then that’s very naive and demonstrates a lack of understanding of what is now a hugely complex market.

  16. I agree in the main with what Alison has noted, and personally if these are the 7 fundamental things a trainer should not be doing, as Alison stated I also would question the Trainers ability and the standard of training/learning being delivered.
    Those trainers with time and experience under their belts, will I am sure if they are any good at what they do will always leave the audience wanting to know more, thus proving No7 is not always the case.
    Having delivered training courses of 1 day, 1 week, through to new operational start-ups of 6-week training courses for all grades, the 5-day rule becomes redundant when starting new businesses where contracts are signed and start dates set, any delay costs.
    Good Trainers mature with age and experience, and remember:
    Training means you have to, Learning means I want to. which do you promote

  17. Good comment Stephen, although L&D is a structured approach one must not let this process stem your own thoughts and ideas as a trainer. Having trained through several avenues for many decades (Military, Scuba Diving and Rail Industry) each brought its own skill requirements. Also, one should not try and automatically transfer skills and techniques from one day / week to the next. Use your own skills to adapt and manage. Feed back is good. So ask for it and act on it if positive, it not positive investigate why. Try not to make every situation the same. Make the ‘structure’ stable and consistently work around and on it for improvement. There is no definitive right and wrong!

  18. Looks like most of these ‘things’/’rules’/’guidelines’/’suggestions’ have been either agreed with or disagreed with or added to – exactly as experienced trainers would expect.

    The point about great training is that it fits the learner, the learning, the budget and the timeframe and other related opportunities (space/facilities…?).

    One way to discriminate in the learning, for instance (given that, to even be thinking of being a trainer one will already have a plethora of ways to sort out the various participant learning styles/types/needs), is to see a continuum from open to closed – the former requiring more experience-based learning and the latter requiring more instruction-based learning. As one evolves as a trainer, one becomes more eclectic and able to apply more right techniques to the learning opportunity and the individual learner needs – hence time and budget needs change. Perhaps a good opportunity to explore the terms used by trainers such as training/development-training/development/education/mentoring/coaching – and the many other learning medii.

  19. Excellent information. I use comedy based training to help people build communication skills, and my experience backs up what you say about keeping training participants awake and alert and engaged – and addressing difficult themes in a light-hearted way

  20. I do enjoy these articles!

    Actually I don’t, they annoy me and leave me compelled to climb on my soap box.

    The title of the article is ‘7 things a training provider should never do’… 20 years ago this would be reasonable advice to an average in house training function, but in this day and age its a dated approach not suitable for a modern audience. I do wonder what makes Simon West the authority in this arena.

    Companies work totally different today than they ever have before:
    – Mondays and Fridays are just days…
    – To suggest cutting a 5 day programme to 3 shows a complete lack of understanding of any personal development, why does the content exist if it is not critical?
    – We don’t deliver public courses however, to suggest they don’t work when many providers like Reed deliver hundreds every year with resounding success!
    – If we need to suggest that we should not isolate delegates than no wonder I face wrath of new customers telling me that training does not work if they have had deliverers and providers that need to be told that…
    – We often deliver to long term unemployed people as well of corporate professionals, they will always complete extra curricular activity providing they are adequately engaged in the programme…

    I have lost the will to live now. The point is, don’t promise to fix the problem of poor advice to training providers with entry level, sub standard advice.

    If you are going to do it, do it correctly or step aside and let the professionals do it…

    Rant over…

  21. I would add an 8th: provide time either at the end or at strategic points during the course to reflect. What are the key learning points for you so far? Who do you need to tell about this? What is your first action point and when will you do it? I have these on a flip chart and flick back to them just before breaks and at the end.

  22. Completely agree with Danny. This advice is so basic as to be pointless. And I definitely don’t agree with 1. I organise my courses to fit in with my clients’ needs, and Mondays and Fridays are often when they are free of other commitments. I know everyone loves writing lists of do’s and don’ts, but the currency becomes seriously devalued when it is as patronising as this.

  23. Someone better tell CITB this. They insist on 37.5 hours of training for an SMSTS course that can be done in 25 hours… it has to be over 5 days, and has overnight assignments each day – despite the fact that once the delegates have finished studying for the day, they often have to get to work.

  24. Some good tips but I would seriously question 1 and 2 as being good for everyone. Some accredited courses require completion of (in old money) Guided learning hours, and some courses are reduced down to 5 days instead of 6.
    For technical training which we largely carry out at the Fire Service College, the argument made above does not apply (within reason) as it is the achievement of the learning outcomes that are important in order to provide a measure of assurance in a regulated environment.

    I do accept that for some training, in order to make it attractive for the bean counters that short hits can be more attractive, but ultimately all training requirements should be about the learning outcomes required, and accepting that if time is limited, then no matter what the budget holder wants, you may only be able to achieve some of the desired outcomes.

    Of course the other side of the coin is where a provider crams a 2 day course into a week…….

  25. At the risk of reopening Danny’s rant 😉 I would add a couple I do in my courses.

    1. Begin and end with 1-5 minutes of meditation each day. While initially I (and my participants) questioned doing this, by the end of the course they were reminding me when we’d not done it. No matter what your subject (and I would argue that even engineers would get it), giving your body & mind time to settle, let go of the trip in, the bad hotel bed, the dubious text from their partner, whatever, and turn their attention to being present in the room is well worth the few minutes it takes. Might help to offer gentle music or sounds initially, and guidance along the lines of the above, then slowly get them used to the idea of simply sitting in silence, gently paying attention to their breath, and letting all those pesky thoughts come in and go out, while continually returning the attention to the breath.

    2. Serve decent food! Coffee & tea if you must, but soft drinks only add to that feeling of afternoon lethargy, rather than detract from it. I always go for fruit, nowadays gluten- and dairy-free options if you must have biscuits, nuts, etc. It will serve the double purpose of making your session stand out, if you don’t serve the same old crap…

    There are others, but I’ll see how those land with this group first…

  26. As a Learning Specialist, it has always surprised me that I have never attended a training course that finished on time. Every single one ran over. I always aim to finish earlier, and offer this incentive instead of an hour long lunch, none of my delegates has ever said they would prefer an hour lunch over leaving early. I also make them promise to actually leave and not go back to work.

  27. Clearly from all the comments above it can be seen that there is no single right answer. A lot depends on whether the training is internal or external focussed, is it driven by a standard or is it guidance, what is opinion against what is fact and probably importantly to the audience – “Whats in it for me?”. If the course is a “must have” for a job role it will tend to have some sort of test / examination attached e.g. ITIL Foundation, MCSE, ISO20000 Auditor – then that is what is in it for the delegate. Whats in it for the employer – well that all depends on their market / business – one question I have always asked is “Do you want knowledge or do you want certification?”. The two are not necessarily delivered in the same way or with the same degree of flexibility. Knowledge aquisition is more flexible but syllabus / examination driven is quite specific in what must be delivered. ONe final piece of experience – know your audience and focus on their needs.