Training sessions may seem second nature, but only a few training sessions are insightful, meaningful and effective. These 10 tips for planning a training session will help you accelerate your team’s performance and hit key targets.
What is a training session and why should you organize one?
Intuitively, a training session is an event that provides education value to attendees. Whether you’re planning a corporate and team skill training or a general certification class, training sessions can include anything from lectures and evaluations to discussions and demonstrations.
The benefits of training in the workplace are undeniable.
A training session underway at LABS Holborn. Source: HeadBox
Training sessions are great for boosting morale, re-focusing your team, and enhancing the professional development of your employees. In turn, these forums help foster a happier working environment and increased productivity from your colleagues.
As an organizer, your goal is likely to maximize the training day experience to be both effective and valuable for your attendees (in this case, your team). Our 10 tips for planning a training session will help ensure that your training day will prove beneficial for your business, from accelerating your team’s performance to hitting key targets.
1. Before the Session, Perform a Needs Assessment
Performing a needs test will help guide how you structure your training course. Establishing the needs of your company from those that experience it in the day-to-day will enable you to design a training session that will up-skill your team, and ultimately help you to achieve your business goals.
A sample training needs assessment template.
While there are many techniques you can use to conduct a needs test, we’ve provided a sample assessment template above that you can modify according to your training needs. Implementing a test like the one prior before your training session will highlight the gaps in your team, and help you determine the demands of individual participants.
2. Keep Adult Learning Principles in Mind
Organizing a training session should take into account the principles of learning, more specifically, adult learning principles. The Adult Learning Theory by Malcolm Knowles, a pioneer in the field of adult learning, focuses on five main principles of learning:
- Self-Concept: As a person matures they move towards becoming a self-directed human being.
- Adult Learner Experience: As a person matures they accumulate a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
- Readiness to Learn: As a person matures their readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of their social roles.
- Orientation to Learning: As a person matures their perspective changes and they become more focused on solving problems.
- Motivation to Learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internalized.
It’s a great idea to revolve your sessions around these adult learning principles, in doing so you will optimize the training as a valuable experience for your attendees. Take principle #5, Orientation to Learning. A training session is inherently about understanding and fixing problems—whether that is a lack of strategic understanding, a gap in vocational knowledge, or the need for personal skills’ development. This focus on problem solving learning underpins your whole training session and as such, should be considered throughout the training process.
3. Establish Learning Objectives
Learning objectives are the basis of your training session. These will highlight the skills and knowledge that your team will master by attending your event, but more importantly learning objectives should be derived from the needs assessment we previously mentioned. Having clear goals maximizes the potential and impact of your session by setting expectations and ensuring attendees that the topics being covered pertain to the feedback they had provided.
In turn, learning objectives must be measurable. It would prove impossible to sustain and support future training sessions without being able to speak to your events success. When it comes to establishing measurable objectives, the SMART format of formulating learning objectives is a great way to create clear goals. SMART refers to:
- S — Specific: Goals for training must be specific to the training you are running.
- M — Measurable: Learning objectives need to be measurable so that you are able to evaluate the success of your training session.
- A — Attainable: Learning objectives can be ambitious, but keep in mind that they must also be realistic and attainable given the factors at play.
- R — Relevant: Consider the implications for attendees and the business alike.
- T — Time: A goal without a deadline isn’t feasible. In this case, consider both the time for the session as well as the time to implement the skills learned in the workplace.
Working without learning objectives may affect the outcome of your training session and your teaching may not be as successful as first hoped. Follow this format to create meaningful and attainable learning objectives for any training session.
The structure of a training session can be make or break. As such, it should be planned after you have established learning objectives and with a strong focus on the adult learning principles.
The structure gives you, as the trainer and organizer, a timeline to follow and will be indicative of how clearly you are resolving the team’s training assessment needs. It is a good idea to share a simplified version of your training session with your participants in advance, so they can be better prepared the day of.
A sample training session structure. Source: Moz
5. Training Materials
Training materials are essential in running the perfect training session, and they fall into two categories: 1) training materials for the trainer and 2) training materials for the attendees.
For the organizer, the materials act as an agenda and a form of guidance. They should support what you are saying and they should prompt you and keep you organized. From beginning to end, staying organized can be the difference between an excellent training session and an average training session.
The 5E Learning Model is a great one to follow with its five different stages:
The 5E Learning Model. Source: Swift
- Engage: To learn attendees must be able to contextualize this experience and have readily available activities to guide them.
- Explore: Usually a group activity, this phase focuses on helping attendees understand and develop new skills.
- Explain: As an organizer and trainer, emphasize why the previous stage was relevant for this session and for your greater goal.
- Elaborate: Employs participants to hone in those conceptual skills by implementing practical training activities.
- Evaluate: This stage applies to organizers and attendees alike. Both must conclude and internalize the lessons learned throughout.
If you follow this in your training session structure or even also provide this to the students for their training materials you will ensure a better structured session. For instance, begin with a problem —the learning objectives you have established from performing a needs test. Your training session should answer these problems by teaching every attendee something they didn’t already know, providing them with new skills, and helping them to do their jobs better.
For the attendees, training materials will guide the session, making different parts of the training session digestible. Providing training materials for the attendees also allows them to revisit the information on their own time.
6. A Clear, Digestible Presentation
The presentation you deliver is the most important training material you will produce. It guides your whole training session, both as an organizer and for your attendees. When it comes to planning your training presentation outline, detail is key.
The 1-6-6 Presentation Rule Visualized. Source: University of Cape Town
Text should be clear and concise. Ever heard of the 1-6-6 Rule? This guideline suggests that effective presentations should have:
- One idea per slide
- A maximum of six bullet points per page
- No more than six words for every bullet point
This technique will optimize your presentation to be concise while keeping your audience engaged.
7. Incorporate activities
At times, a training session might involve tens of people, some of which might not be familiar with each other. Training sessions are all about a dual-relationship, a collaboration between the organizer and the attendees. That’s where games come in.
One of our favorite ice-breakers is to split the group you are working with into smaller groups of four or five. In these smaller groups, participants can work together to find ten things that they have in common with every person in the group. Establishing what people have in common allows individuals to bond over their similarities, leading to a more relaxed and conducive learning environment.
Another great activity to try is role reversal. When each learning objective has been covered by the trainer, pass the presentation over to the attendees and ask them to present what they’ve learned. Encouraging active participation will solidify the lessons learned.
8. Time Management
Being an organizer means being a 24/7 time manager. If you’ve created a schedule, you should follow this closely to ensure you have enough time to fit in all aspects of the training you’ve spent time outlining.
Heard of the 80/20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto Principle? It is the theory that 80% of results come from only 20% of a person’s actions. As an organizer, this rule is a way to prioritize your time against your most important goals. Working out what that 20% is for your individual training session is important to ensure success.
Consider how some concepts or skills will need more time than than others. What skills are you willing to allocate more time on, and which are nice-to-have that you are okay addressing later? Remember to use the needs assessment, as well as in-person feedback from the group to determine how much time you should be dedicating to a certain topic or skill.
Pro tip: Don’t forget breaks. It can be hard for most people to concentrate for an extended period of time. Breaks, however, have been linked to improving concentration. From the Ultradian Method to the 52-17 Method there are so many different break techniques, so choose the one which suits your training session best.
9. Pick a Conducive Event Venue
The venue of your training session is the heart of your event. Your venue will depend on your event brand, as well as the size of your session. If you have a large, company-wide training session perhaps a conference venue will be suitable. If there’s just a small group of you perhaps a meeting room or workshop will do.
A smaller meeting room from The Office Group. Source: HeadBox
Want something a little more creative? Why not choose an unusual venue in the city where you can get creative with your training and really inspire your guests.
Did you know that off-site meeting or conference often improves productivity? According to Forbes, 51% of workers said they weren't engaged with their office environment and even worse, 17% said they were actively disengaged with their office environment—use an off-site as a way to re-engage your employees across the board.
Running a training evaluation is key when developing your own skills as a trainer and ensuring you have met your training session goals. Of course, taking into account whether or not your participants have acquired the intended learning objectives. Feedback may seen daunting, but it’s essential to your development as a trainer.
One of the best ways to gather feedback is through face-to-face conversations with your attendees. Ask attendees to give a brief reflection on the activities they’ve just completed.
Alternatively, you can ask for reflective feedback post training day through an electronic feedback form your attendees can fill out. For instance, consider using a feedback questionnaire or an evaluation form.
If you need some inspiration, we’ve put together a basic evaluation form template.
Like most tips, it is usually best to try implementing a few of these training session suggestions. That said, the main things to remember when planning a successful training day are as follows:
- Stay organized.
- Keep adult learning principles at the forefront of all activities and sessions.
- Use an off-site venue to increase productivity and excitement around the event.
- Active Learning: Encourage participation from your attendees for a truly impactful session.
- Evaluate. Reflect, get feedback, and try again.
No training session will be perfect the first time around, but eventually you will find a strategy that works best for you and your attendees. Keep these 10 tips in mind when planning your next training session.