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How to Improve as a Trainer

Do you want to continuously improve as a trainer?

How long have you been a training professional? Whether you’ve been in it for 25 years, 6 years, or 4 months, you’ve probably dealt with a tough person or group.

I love being a trainer and workshop facilitator. It keeps me on my toes, and I feeling like I’m solving puzzles in my head the whole time. I know I’ve had a good session, when I leave feeling like I’m done a good workout. Because I know that I gave it my all and did everything I could to help the people connect with the ideas I was sharing.

While I haven’t found a 100% successful strategy for eliminating all challenges, I do have some strategies that help to me to prepare and deliver effective workshops.

It may sound silly, but you’ve got to remember to care deeply about the people you are training.

Bill Treasurer, the founder and CEO of Giant Leap, and I believe this so much that when we co-facilitate we literally look at each before a workshop and say, “Remember to love them.” For me, it helps ground me in the truth that these are people coming with their own wisdom and experience. I need to honor that and appreciate what they have to say.

One of my favorite things to say in a workshop is, “Tell me more about that.”

If you have someone who keeps giving you one word or short phrase answers, it’s a great way to draw them out and put the responsibility of their learning back on their own shoulders. Likewise, if you have a person who offers a really thought provoking statement, it’s a gentle way to have them provide even more insight.

Here are eight more powerful training tips. They are strategies I employ that have worked for me. I hope they work for you too.


  • Know what’s driving the need: why is this training program being offered? Are you responding to a specific situation, are you emphasizing organizational values, are you preparing people for a coming opportunity? Whatever it is, talk with the department heads to understand why they want their people in your training.

  • Build executive support: senior leaders set the tone, for good and for bad. Get senior leadership’s support for training. Have them sponsor a session where they come and welcome the class and relate the topic to their own career. Give executives coaching on how to they can reinforce the behavior you want to see after the workshop.

  • Don’t rest on your heels: Maybe you’ve led that communication skills workshop or leadership styles assessment program dozens of times. Don’t let that be an excuse to get lazy. Can you make your slides better? Are their fresher examples you could include? Is there a different way to draw out participation? We can always grow stronger as trainers, but only if we don’t rest on our heels.

  • Prepare real world examples: If you’re using case studies or role plays, they have got to be relevant to the people in the room. Make them specific to the organization or better yet to the department level. Your students will best learn how to apply the ideas if they see themselves reflected in your examples.


  • Meeting protocol: It’s such a small thing, but I find some groups really hate being told meeting “rules”. Whether it’s a group of senior leaders, seasoned managers, or independent minded people, “rules” often grate. Swapping in the word “protocol” gets the job done without the aggrivation. A small thing, but it really helps me.

  • Find out why they are there: I’m sure you set learning objectives and share those with the people in your workshop. But do you take the time to ask them what they want to learn? I’ve started to do this recently, and it’s had a big impact. It keys me into their expectations and gives me a great list of conversation starters if the room gets too quiet.

  • Interrupt interesting conversations: I really think we want to leave them wanting a bit more. This means you might have to bring a discussion to a close so that you can move to another topic. Remind them to start these conversations back up during breaks and after the workshop. Plus, this tip helps you stay on schedule.

  • Connect to their heart: In my Courageous Leadership workshops, I like to have my attendees talk about real people they know, either personally or professionally, who they think are courageous. The examples people share are amazing! It creates such a shift in the room where we connect the ideas we’ve been discussing with the reality of their lives. It’s the point where the theory in our heads can intersect the truth in our hearts. I find it opens people up to the ideas, builds connections between the people in the room, and paves the way for awesome discussion.

About the author

Laura E. Cohn is a senior consultant and facilitator with Giant Leap Consulting. Laura joined GLC after being a co-coordinator of Leadership Asheville, a community-based leadership program sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Asheville. With Giant Leap, she has facilitated and co-facilitated strategic planning workshops, teambuilding sessions, leadership development courses, and contributed to the development of customized resources that meet the specific needs of our clients. Laura assisted in the development of the Courageous Leadership facilitator’s guide and supporting materials and is the co-author of the Courageous Leadership participant workbook. Laura has led strategic planning sessions for, among others, Harvard University, MIT, Brown University, USC, Plote Construction, the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, and the City of Asheville.

She first became fascinated with leadership development and civic engagement while working with the Points of Light Foundation. During that fellowship she focused on developing new ways to engage youth in community decision-making. She is a graduate of Rollins College where she received the C. Wright Mills Award in Sociology, Sojourner Truth Award in Women’s Studies, and the Sullivan Medallion for Service.

#learninganddevelopment #team #collaboration #training #billtreasurer #lauracohn #performancemanagement #leadership

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