Interactive Training – 9 Tips for Success

Training and performance improvement professionals work hard every day trying to make training more engaging. Our goal is not to make the training more engaging by itself; we want to improve participation in class, increase learning and retention, and ensure application on the job that improves performance. Increasing engagement does not have to be difficult. Here is a list of nine ways you can easily make your training more engaging.

1. Don’t take it so darn seriously

If you are conducting customer service, new product, or time management training the world is not going to end if the training is not perfect. Have fun. Tell stories of times in which you made mildly embarrassing mistakes before you learned what you are teaching. This technique will allow learners to let their guards down, relax, and allow themselves to learn.

2. Have a conversation

Talk with your learners not to them or at them. A training session should be a back-and-forth exchange. To borrow from Harold Stolovitch’s book title; telling people something for four hours is not training them.

3. Speak their language

If you are training sales people, use selling lingo. If you are training operations managers, acknowledge their challenges and/or office jokes. If you listen carefully during a training session, you can pick up these things quite easily. You can also find out more about the work environment of your learners ahead of time by doing research before training begins.

4. Let a little bit of you out

You are a person. Be one. At breaks, play one of your playlists. Have a desktop picture of you on a vacation. Make jokes about how you struggled to learn what you are facilitating now. People will engage more with a real person than they will with a trainer.

5. Let the conversations linger

Do not be too quick to cut off discussions or conversations in class. You certainly do not want to allow people to babble on and on for too long when one of your jobs as a trainer/facilitator is to keep the class on track … but if you cut conversations off too soon, you will lose your audience. They will think to themselves, “Who does this guy think he is?” If you are not sure, let the conversation go a little longer, most of the time the discussion will end naturally.

6. Smile. Be energetic. Be happy to be there

There is no substituted for an enthusiastic facilitator who genuinely wants to be there. Act like it.

7. Treat people like responsible adults

A little late? Not to worry. If they missed something, their loss. They can make it up. If they have personal issues outside of work, respect that and show them support. Someone who comes back from break late and misses an important part of the course does not need a lecture from you. The consequence is that they missed something important. Remember they are a responsible adult. If they miss something, it’s their loss. It is another story entirely if someone is disrupting the class. That has to be dealt with directly.

8. Ask the class

If a learner asks a question and you know the answer…don’t just answer it. Put your ego aside and say, “Good question. Does anyone know the answer?” This is a great way to increase engagement and participation in class. This is the best part, if a learner asks a question and you do not know the answer say, “Good question. Does anyone know the answer?” Most of the time someone will have answer and it will spark other answers and some of them might just be the right answer.

9. Practice, practice, practice

Have people perform the tasks in class, lead discussions, or enter cases into the system. If this is not possible in class, redesign the class or create pre-work, activities, or simulations that can be performed before or after class. If you can, have people return to their desks during class to perform activities. Then, bring them back to class after 20 minutes to debrief.

Bill Cushard


  1. Great reminder of being ‘human’ during a workshop Bill. Sometimes we feel that there is so much content to ‘cover’, that we forget the niceties that aren’t really niceties but essential if we want learners to relax, feel part of the workshop and actually start to learn.

    Thanks for a great list any trainer would do well to adhere to.


  2. Nice,simple article and straight to the point. I think sometimes people make training more complicated than it is. Once you are confident about your content, connection with the delegates is FUNDAMENTAL and really makes the difference between a successful and mediocre session

  3. Tatiana Wernikoff

    Bill, all nine points are very interestin. Here in Brasil some of them, I suppose, are much more easy to employ. Noproblems for us to be a real person in front of trainers! And about the sixth point I woul say: if you don’t love what you are doing, please don’t do it!!!!

  4. Stefanie

    Nice reminder not only to engage your participants but to engage yourself. Even when it’s a great program it feels a lot more like work when we miss these simple steps. Thanks for the post.

  5. Tatiana,Thanks for your comments. which ones would be more difficult to do in your country?

  6. Neena Nair

    That makes a lot of sense. Training this way would not only help the trainees develop a comfort level and respond better with better understanding but it would also make things easier for the trainer too. A more human approach is what I would say…Thanx 🙂

  7. Paul Broekhof

    Very, very good indeed. I’d like to add one of my own: start with the WHY.

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