Thursday, August 16, 2018

Training Delivery Style: An Art or a Science?

Art: an expression or application of human creative skill and imagination

Science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world

A rather subjective topic but can it be both?  While I think there are some people that have a natural ability to perform well when standing in front of people, there are always aspects that they can develop.  In this blog I’ll share my experiences and thoughts on what we can do to inject an appropriate style into train the trainer sessions. 

If I were to ask you to join me in assessing a trainer’s style, what would you look out for?  This is a question I ask my groups and the following categories regularly come up.



Wouldn’t it be great if we could drink from a shot glass of confidence before a session?  If we could, how do you think it would change our behavior?  While we may feel the adrenaline, nerves and apprehension coursing through our veins, the techniques that have worked for me to help to ‘appear’ confident are:

X Marks the Spot

Standing in front of a group of people with both feet planted firmly on the ground is a sure sign of confidence for me.  I wonder what learners may think or feel if they saw you shift your weight from one foot to the other while delivering

Being Comfortable With Silence

What do you think it is very easy to do once you ask a question and there is a more than a three second silence?  Answer it or ask the same question again but slower and louder? Try holding your ground instead.  While I know of some trainers that will wait for weeks before they think of rephrasing the question, I think 5-10 seconds (given the complexity of the question) would be a suitable average.  This gives learners ample time to: consider the question, search for their answer and pluck up the courage to say it. 

While there are additional aspects to consider, I think these are a good place to start.  Appearing to be confident when delivering training is key as learners will feel more confident with their learning experience.


Body Language

Arms and Hands

What on earth could we do with our arms and hands while delivering a session?  I hear that open body language is a useful way to deliver but standing like a starfish isn’t exactly appropriate when speaking. My advice, use them!  Using congruent hand gestures to emphasise key points may help you and your learners training.

But what should you do when you’re not doing the talking?  Try resting your arms by your side.  Like ‘x marks the spot’, standing there with your arms resting by your side is another sign of confidence.

For more information on congruent hand gestures…

Nonverbal World - All about Nonverbal Communication: Reading Body Language - Congruence

Eye Contact

Like all other aspects, too much or too little of this can have a negative impact on the relationship you hold with your group.  While some people may look towards people they know throughout the session, others can’t help but look down to the floor or up to the ceiling.  A technique you may find useful is called the ‘lighthouse technique’.  This method helps maintain an appropriate level of eye-contact between us and our learners which will help you to appear more confident.  I learned recently about making ‘eye connection’; looking at individuals for a second longer than you normally would.  It’s really powerful and sends the message that you’re speaking to the person you’re looking at, rather than the wider group.




Yes, yes, yes, honesty is the best policy but just saying “I don’t know the answer to your question” simply isn’t good enough...apparently. A few steps you may consider would be to; acknowledge the question, write it down on a flipchart and give a realistic date that you could give them the answers after you look in to them. 

This technique, knows as a ‘park it board’, helps learners feel valued that there question is being acknowledged properly, it’s a gentle reminder to yourself to look into the question and more importantly get back in touch with them. While some trainers may choose to set up their park it board as the course opens, there’s an argument that says setting it up at this stage is telling your learners that you expect there’ll be questions that you can’t answer.

Regardless of the amount of experience you have when delivering training, here are some considerations that may help you to develop or build your skills.  Training Delivery Style; an art of a science?  Yes, I believe it can be both.

What other styles would you consider to be important when training the trainer?  I'd love to hear what you think...

Paul Edmondson is the Training Director here at The Training Foundation.

Author: Paul Edmondson