The 7 things a training provider should never do

Posted on June 7, 2017 by Simon West

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.

76 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.

    • Great advice; points 4,5 and 7 resonate with me in particular. Having been a student on numerous resettlement courses during my exiting from the Army, I can safely say those points should be adhered too!! Good to see someone gas taken the time and interest to address this.

    • I think this is an excellent list of things not to do! I would elaborate upon number 4 – as a former educator, I believe that the more we are involved as active participants, the more we learn and actually retain. By using more learner-centric activities, engagement is increased, and also eliminates those who disappear to use their phone!

      Also…’“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” Alfred Mercier’

  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 //www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/why-choose-us/sticky-learning/

    • Makes a huge difference to the cost though, so some of the suggestions below about varying the voice via other means are good. I also find the occasional and carefully curated use of a video can help.

  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.

  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.

    • Don’t stick to the same mode of delivery, especially when in lecture model – change it up, insert a story /anecdote or exercise every 10-20 minutes as attention wanders as quickly as that! A fresh story or activity re-engages. Don’t forget that emotional connections and feedback are crucial…. hence a further value in stories and exercises.

    • 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.

      • Ellen – the description you give sounds very much like a public course. Diversity is an excellent approach but it still all depends on the tutor and their approach. No one ever attending a course I have delivered has left feeling left out or bored.

      • 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.

    • As a software vendor we provide training to both technical and non technical staff as part of a five day core program. Time and cost is an overriding factor in the decision to hold 5 day sessions. It is not always the case that courses can be compressed into 3 days and this yardstick can not be applied to all industries and their training. This is why we ease the burden on the trainee by starting them on eLearning modules thereby providing a fully blended program with pre and post eLearning modules to compliment our Instructor Led sessions. We want our customers to get up to speed and implement their solutions quickly and with the least disruption and cost. Cost will always be a paramount concern and customers will always want training compressed – but I would argue that you as a trainer you know the capabilities better of a mixed class of people with differing technical and learning abilities. Stand your ground as ultimately (as I have often found) they will appreciate the value of this after you have completed your enagagemsnt.

  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.

      Thanks!

    • 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.

  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

    • I had never heard that mantra that you finished your comments with, but I like it! And it is so true. I’ve delivered First Aid training and have had to deal with people (strong, dominant personalities too) who were definitely attending because they had to. But once I had found their ‘triggers’ they actually began to engage and found that they learnt something too. I also agree that if these are the 7 fundamental things a trainer should not be doing, I too would be concerned about the ability of the trainers.

  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. One stand out rule for me is never run over. I have lost track of the number or speakers that do this, it’s rude and very unprofessional.
    You will have much more impact finishing early, especially after lunch.

  28. This is all good advice, some of which is so logical that you may actually forget to do it. I run a 5 1/2 day training course once a year and so far it has been well attended, maybe because I start to market it a year in advance. Corporate work I find more challenging as staff are training and not at their desks. I keep training courses down to 2 or 3 hours in length
    .

  29. We should not keep such training, conferences during vacations, some important exams or adverse weather conditions etc, and also not start too early in morning or end too late in evening.
    Add some quick stress releasing exercise/ meditation during breaks.

  30. Make sure if you can theory is done in the mornings and practical in the afternoon, if there is no practical then make up some interactive learning for afternoon sessions.

    Make sure you know your stuff reading monotone from a ppt is a training killer for anyone (death by PowerPoint) if you know your stuff PowerPoints are only a prompt for the trainer.

    Remember people learn better in a relaxed atmosphere!!

  31. I have a few comments to make on this:

    I run a successful training business and for the past 5 years I have
    Run an open programme on a Monday morning. The programme runs for 32 hours over 8 sessions, run weekly/fortnightly. Delegates come from various businesses (often as far as 75 miles away) and are of different levels. I do not advertise it and it generally has between 10-14 people on it each time. I run 3 of them a year. My clients love it and it works for their staff. Monday morning works as the delegates are fresh and able to take their learnt knowledge into the afternoon and the rest of the week.
    Fridays – well some businesses have to, due to logistics. I recently ran a leadership programme on a Friday, as the factory was closed and it was a good day for the management to be out all together. Bespoke means guiding the client in the right way, but also taking into consideration their needs/restrictions.

    Having continuous training over days doesn’t work. It is theory. People need the opportunity to put their learnt theory into practice. One day of training is generally enough for most people. 3 Days at an absolute maximum, and must include lots of different types of activities, exercises and opportunities to practice etc. It takes time to develop skills. If I run a workshop (day or 1/2 a day), I make it very clear to the organiser and then the delegates that they will not gain a skill in this time – they need to practice. Quite interesting how often I see a ‘surprised’ look on faces – that theory is going to be enough to develop the skill. It isn’t.

    As for enough breaks and not overrunning – well that should be standard. If you are teaching time management for example, you as the trainer has to set a good example. I can guarantee my training starts and finishes on time.

    Everyone must be treated the same – as a trainer that should be a given. It is of course up to the delegate to demonstrate their own accountability for getting involved.

  32. On the “Do not over run” point I usually ask for a deal – we will finish early in exchange for prompt returns from breaks.
    We also always offer 3 months follow up advice if people need it. They rarely do. and it adds a level of confidence.
    Also we often test at the end but it is open book, talk to a friend, ask the Tutor aka a revision session. Or we ask very small groups to devise multiple choice test questions for specific topics.
    (We are training in the regulatory area so being able to find answers can be important)

  33. My only advice would be to make sure what you are teaching is up to date and relevant to today’s market. I have been involved with so many training programs in the past I cannot count them all. There are good ones and bad ones but nothing is worst then having people walk out saying what a waste of my time or that could have been condensed down to half the time. I don’t have time to play silly games or send my staff to play so keep the information real. Leave a website or contact number for questions that come up after the course.

  34. 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.

  35. Get qualified. Being a trainer means you have a responsibility to engage adults with acquiring a new skill, knowledge set or behaviour. Adults have different learning styles that respond to different training methods of delivery. Do more than just check out your national training qualifications – apply, engage and pass them. The learning that you as a trainer gains from this learning / qualification process makes you a better trainer – improves your training content and ensures that you understand and apply the critical element of all training courses that get forgotten – assessment- Oh and a bit of fun too!

  36. Don’t hose them with information dissemination – especially if it’s on powerpoint! I have been on so many training courses which have simply been information rather than applied knowledge. They could have sent me the powerpoint slides and I would have got just as much out of it! This is where the saying ‘training doesn’t work’ comes from! New ideas, latest thinking, applied and tested knowledge – yes please! Information I can get by doing a Google search – no thanks!

  37. BTW – we actively encourage Friday workshops! Interactive style, engaging content and fun (we believe if you aren’t having fun, then you aren’t learning) and relevant topics mean that people enjoy them and tell us that our workshops are a welcome end to the week! We just make sure we don’t over-run!
    We find that running courses during school holidays has a much greater impact on attendance – this is a definite no-no.

  38. All very interesting to read and much of it very relevant. Thanks to all contributors.

  39. Thanks for those 7 tips. In our experience it’s worth adding ” people want to know how much you care, before they care how much you know”.

    Also be very careful when you video delegates and playback. If they work together, they will not be want to show themselves up by a poorer performance.. Trainers need to handle this with tact and care.

  40. Great article with some great points and commentary.

    Although I challenge point 3) Don’t pin your hopes on public courses

    The training market hasn’t moved on. Many organisations large and small are confidently filling classrooms for their Public Programs.

    The challenge is the world of Marketing and Sales has moved on.

    Training Providers need to improve in both of those area’s, Especially, if they want to service the growing market of Independents and Small Business Owners who simply aren’t structured, yet, for Corporate Training ‘solutions’.

  41. Agreed, some good advice here. I would never advise scheduling training for a Monday or Friday but it may be that the client requests this (rarely though).
    Also, a company I work as an associate for, often does schedule training on Mondays.
    Can’t agree about the point on public courses. I know some trainers who have been very successful doing just that.

  42. Agree with all the fabulous comments here , really magnify some of the key points .one of things I do is put a call into the delegates line manager to share feedback and see what’s changed post workshop for that person.Helps towards building a stronger relationship with that business.

  43. Do not assume the participants are aware why they are there…some may be quite clear, really want to be there and have set personal objectives..others may have been sent by their managers and be reluctant partipants…Invest time at the start finding out why people are there, be prepared for uncomfortable truths, get buy in and adjust the programme appropriately to meet objectives of those in the room and those not present who have a vested interest in the outcome.

  44. Monday mornings and Friday pm avoidance can help reduce costs for participants.
    Interactivity first day also assists as ice breaker
    Be concise and clear without jargon.
    Always answer questions to the satisfaction of the inquirer. Or explain outside the main class if felt better for the person concerned.
    Maintaining interactivity throughout strengthens class/group bonds. 40 mins sessions are good with a lighthearted diversion at 20 mins if on a dry subject.
    Agree with the group day lengths through discussion on break lengths.
    End the day with a short brief on where the next day is taking them.
    Try not to end a day with an exercise that splits the group and could lead to extra curricular time.

    So many but this is a great thread that can be picked from.

    John

  45. I agree this is a nice clear list of don’ts.
    Although I wouldn’t personally choose to deliver on Monday or Friday day, it is ultimately up to the client to decide. I think finding the right location for the training is as essential to the day of the week. Long travel and over night stays can have a big (and not always positive) impact on how a candidate feels when they arrive.
    Another pet hate of mine is ‘a trainer who is late setting up and who therefore isn’t ‘present’ to welcome the candidates as they arrive.

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