Train the Trainer

How to Create Engaging Training Sessions


Build the Stage + Aim to Engage  

In today's world of distractions and barely-there budgets, creating an engaging training session can be full of challenges. But with a little bit of creativity and imagination, you can easily transform a basic and boring training session into a world-class event. 

Below are a few ideas to get you started. 


Let me just state the obvious real quick. People are going to check their phones during a training session. It's practically a given. As rude and disrespectful as that behavior is toward the trainer/facilitator/lecturer, it happens, and the temptation is always going to be there for your trainees, even if you set up ground rules. It doesn't matter how many warnings or reprimands you give, your audience will keep trying to sneak peeks, or maybe even whip out a second device, if they can.

It's just the type of world we live in. <Insert shrug> 

So, how do you compete with that?

By using human behavior to your advantage and giving your trainees the green light to use technology in the training session. 

In other words, implementing iPads + Tablets in your sessions, but only if the type of training you're conducting is flexible enough to handle it, and doesn't require specific equipment (certain programs on desktop computers). 

Here are a few interactive (and cost-effective) options you can explore: 

  • Kick off the training session with real-time polls. Ask your learners what their expectations are, how they're feeling, or what they hope to learn and gain. During the training, you can use polls to ask more specific questions relevant to the topic you're discussing. Check out ZohoSurvey, Poll Everywhere, Survey Monkey, and Google Forms
  • Integrate some quizzes. Test your learners before and after the session to see what they actually know and learned (aka pre and post tests). You can even insert mini knowledge checks to gauge their progress throughout the session. Take a look at ProProfs Quiz Maker and Google Forms
  • Add videos. Videos are always a great way to keep people's attention, especially if they're funny. The good thing is, you don't need a production crew to create your own videos, you can just grab an iPad and go. You can record scenarios, interviews, and hands-on demonstrations and show them to your audience to increase their level of understanding. And if you're looking for a shortcut, just remember: you can't randomly pluck those YouTube clips you found browsing the Internet. Things get pretty dicey when it comes to fair use law, and unless its strictly for use in an educational/non profit environment, it doesn't apply to the training realm. To be on the safe side, you're better off making your own. Think iMovie for Mac or Camtasia for Windows (not totally a shoe-string price, but worth it!). 

Remember, the goal is to make the training as interactive as possible so people aren't sitting there like stale sardines. You want them to be engaged - not wishing they were back at their desk answering phones, filing, or even flossing their teeth. 



A training session is nothing without accessories. Absolutely nothing. If all you're bringing to your training sessions are handouts and a PowerPoint, then it's time to change that. Accessories can add some spice to your sessions, and give it a special touch, but also help you stay organized and help keep your learners focused.  

So, for your next training session, think about adding the following, if you haven't already: 

  • Name tags
  • Clocks + Timers
  • Markers + Pens
  • Highlighters + Sticky Notes
  • Flip charts
  • Prizes + Awards
  • Fidget toys

You don't have to break the bank either to get any of these items, either. You can check out your local Dollar Tree, Dollar General, or Walmart in the Teacher or Back to School isles, or head on over to Amazon for some budget-friendly finds. 



Have you ever thought about moving your training off-site to another location? Just to give your staff a break from the usual? Or help them to gain a better understanding of the environment they'll be working in? Changing the location of your training session can help your team focus better, gain a bigger perspective on their role in the company, and allow them to have a little more fun outside of their normal environment. You can start small by moving a soft skills training outdoors, or even renting an affordable event room for

Another option is setting up a training session as a field trip; this is a great option when you want your trainees to:

  • Observe the way a product is created
  • Watch part or all of a process being performed
  • See "the way things are done around here," to get an overall vibe of the business culture

And of course, there are the obvious reasons to choose a different location such as to:

  • Accommodate more students
  • Host activities and special training events
  • Provide a more relaxing atmosphere

Making the decision to change your training location may not make sense in every situation, but it's definitely something to consider in the future if you're ready to change things up. 


Presentation is everything. Don't ever let anyone tell you different. It doesn't matter if you're decorating for a party, or to set the tone for the office. People are visual and want them to walk into an atmosphere that is inviting and colorful, so think about what you can do to achieve that. 

Here are a few key tips before you start going crazy with the streamers:  

  • Stay on brand. Don't use orange and pink streamers, if your business colors are blue and white. You want to be consistent and cohesive. But at the same time, you want to appeal to the brains of your audience. 
  • Appeal to the senses. Who says your handouts have to stay black and white? Think about photocopying them in a lighter color that complements your brand. Add some colorful graphics and charts in your worksheets and keep them in branded folders. Your learners will be ten times more likely to engage themselves with your training content if you make it striking. You can create some sophisticated infographics from Canva, or Pikochart - two really easy to use and affordable rapid design tools. 
  • Get volunteers. It's always great to have a few helping hands to assist you with planning and designing your training session. You can't do it all, you know, so why not extend the offer to a few employees who want to help improve the sessions and have an eye for decorating and making things look sharp. Create a planning committee and put their skills to use!  

How to Create Branded Training Sessions



Let's get it started

Are you familiar with branded training sessions? They're the perfect way to set yourself apart from your competitors and engage your learners with a distinctive visually appeasing session.

So instead of creating the usual run of the mill training session (instructor-led/classroom-based, with a few handouts, and discussions), a branded training session focuses on promoting your inner business culture, and adding those unique elements inside of your training, while mixing together elements of marketing, promotion, design, and technology.

The end result: the session ends up having its own "look and feel," with a special theme, personalized items, distinctive activities, and custom materials - kind of like a well-planned, and highly detailed event, while still emphasizing the learning aspect. 

It's all about making the training environment more pleasurable and experiential, and below, I have outlined seven major areas you need to familiarize yourself with before getting started. 


What do all successful classroom training sessions have in common? Lots and lots of preparation. Now, before you rush out and buy all new materials for your session, start by asking yourself: What do I need and What do I want in my session? Then type up some running ideas that you have about the format, appearance, and structure of the session. 

Next, outline all of the major requirements you need in order to facilitate the training session. You basically want to write out the nice to haves vs. the must haves. You know you've got to have chairs and tables, but can you really afford those pricey decorations and luxury treats from the new bakery around the corner? (This is where you'll have to make some cuts so you don't go over budget. So choose wisely!) 

Now after you've identified your basic needs, you've got to make sure everything is available, and accessible. 

Here are a few areas you should address before conducting the session: 

  • Marketing + Promotional Tactics 
  • Beverage + Food Choices 
  • Venue + Room Reservation
  • Participant List 
  • Training Materials + Equipment
  • Follow-up Methods

So make sure you take your time in the initial planning stage and cover all your bases. 

Integrate your business culture  

You've got to make your session stand out, and the only way to do that is to highlight what makes your business so unique. So you've got to create a training session that aligns with your business culture.

This means highlighting the most important aspects of your business such as your: 

  • cultural values
  • norms
  • symbols
  • philosophies (ways of thinking) 

If your business is known for producing quality and embracing simplicity, that needs to be reflected in every part of the session. The attention to detail, the clean and simple look of the room and your resources. 

Most importantly, each and every one of the cultural elements noted above need to be expressed in your training content, marketing materials, and demonstrated by your facilitators/trainers.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Prior to the actual training session, you want to focus on building excitement, anticipation, while educating your learners about the benefits of training. At least four week prior to the event, send out a gentle reminder about the training session so people don't forget about it. You can start off with a simple e-mail, and then do the following: post a few social media postings, a poll asking people what they're looking forward to the most, a Facebook discussion post on the benefits of the type of training you're conducting, behind the scenes footage of the content creation process, and whatever other creative means works best for your business culture. 

Incorporate Employee Stories

Some folks cringe at the word training. They feel it's one of those necessary evils in the workplace... but often times doesn't deliver any real value. But you know that's not true, and it's your job to change all that by showing the naysayers otherwise. You can do this by collecting personal success stories of your employees, and adding them into your promotional and training materials.

You will want to highlight instances where training has:

  • Developed the skills and knowledge of your workforce
  • Inspired employees on a personal and professional level 
  • Promoted individuals in the business 

or produced any kind of positive effect on your business! 

That way your staff is reminded of not only their accomplishments, but how training has actually made a difference in their performance.


Create a Theme

When you base your training session on a theme, it makes it much easier (and much more fun) to promote. Think about how you can use slogans, or popular culture references, anything that works for your business culture, and would give the session a more of a "wow" factor. 

But what really makes a branded training session stand out are the 5 c's: color, consistency, and content, creativity, and collaboration. 


When choosing colors for your training session, you want to think about what they actually stand for. If you're hosting a communication training session, you might want to integrate elements of turquoise as it represents good communication skills and self-expression. Plus, it's soothing, and very easy on the eyes, so you'll want to balance it with a complementary color. 

OR you can simply use your designated business colors, and create a different logo just for the training session. That way you can give the training a real branded feel, with a visual representation or symbol of the event (or theme) for your marketing and training material.  

If you don't have a graphic designer on hand, or possess super advanced design skills, there are lots of great DIY logo design kits you can purchase from online vendors such as Envato and Creative Market. (Both of these sites have saved me a great deal in time and money, believe me!) 



Whatever you choose to do, aim for consistency. Don't use one set of colors in your training materials, and then opt for another color palette for everything else. From the decorations around the room to the physical content, you want everything to be in sync and have a natural flow to it. 



Creativity comes in many forms, and you have the right to experiment with different aspects of your training session. 

If you'd rather pace yourself and incorporate a few non-traditional elements in your session, then by all means, do what works for you.

But if you're ready to step out and step up your game, here's a few ideas to get your participants talking (and learning): 

  • Sending out actual invitations to the learners
  • Signature accessories 
  • Live-streaming the training for those who can't attend in person
  • Hosting the training outside of the office 
  • Giveaways
  • Break Out Groups + Teams
  • Role-Playing 

Yes, of course you'll have to watch the budget, but just keep in mind, it pays to go the extra mile. 



Don't be afraid to get other departments or individuals involved in setting up and branding the training session, too. People love to volunteer and show off their skills - you just need to give them a reason to.  

In some larger organizations, marketing and communications will partner with the learning and training function to create and promote the training sessions. Your IT folks might want to help you facilitate a session on navigating the new user interface for a program or identifying and avoiding malware on the web. So think about ways you can include others in helping you facilitate your sessions, and also evaluate what type of knowledge they bring to the table that might be beneficial to share with certain audiences. 


It's all about creating, packaging and presenting the training materials in a way that is not only unique, but entices the learner to actually use them. Instead of providing the usual printed black and white handouts, you can give your learners training resources that are completely out of the box. This is where you'll want to think like a designer and create something useful - and that no one was expecting. 

Let's say, you're hosting a communication skills workshop next month, and instead of photocopying a bunch of papers to put in a training folder, you and a few employees decide to purchase mini gift boxes and personalize them with the names of the participants on the front to create a training kit (complete with and other complimentary resources).

Inside of that training kit, you and your team fill it with:

  • Coaching Coupons (Redeemable for 30 minute practice sessions) 
  • a Free Book (An affordable gift) 
  • a mini Mirror (To practice facial expressions) 
  • Journal (To keep track of progress) 
  • Branded Workbook + Pencils 
  • Communication Cards (Printed with resources + online links) 

Now isn't that much better than just giving folks a regular 'ol handout? Now, before I get ahead of myself, there will be some instances where you'll have to include lengthy diagrams and policies in handouts or depending on the type of training session you're conducting. And that's understandable, but remember, it's all in the design and delivery. Figure out ways to jazz up the look and feel of the content. Step outside of your comfort zone and get creative. 



Just remember to think about what type of content is not only fun and creative, but will actually get the job done: 

  • Will this help the learners to apply what's being taught?
  • After giving them these resources, what will they be able to do (or should do)?
  • Do I have the equipment (software, applications, or platforms) to create the content I want to? 
  • What type of content should I create? print/text-based, eLearning, mobile, social? 

Make sure you take into account the important foundational aspects before you get started. 

Have Fun

Don't take yourself so seriously. Training isn't all about meeting requirements; try to keep the environment "light" by shaking things up with a little bit of humor, or by making connections using real-world stories and lessons. Your learners will be much more apt to listen if you relate the content back to something they're already familiar with, or have at least some background knowledge in.