Training has come a long way from relying on traditional lecture-based classroom sessions to offering a rich menu of learner-centered options for delivery. However, in many cases, an instructor-led training session is still the best way to engage workers. When you’ve spent valuable resources creating a program and identifying or hiring a trainer, you want to see the return on investment (ROI). Be sure to plan to maximize your instructor-led program with comprehensive and effective train-the-trainer sessions.

Learners expect a high quality, engaging and memorable instructor-led training experience when they invest their time and energy in attending it, so make sure that the instructor is as prepared and capable as possible to deliver that experience. Not all instructors are naturally gifted at delivery, but most can improve with practice and time. Other trainers may be great with facilitation but have a poor grasp of the content, and others may be subject matter experts (SMEs) who can’t manage a classroom. Investing in a quality train-the-trainer session can maximize the effectiveness of your instructor-led course.

Preparation for an ILT course may consist of several methods, but an official train-the-trainer session should always be a priority to ensure a quality delivery experience in line with business goals and course objectives. Sending course materials to a trainer and expecting him or her to show up for a pilot or first session presents great risk to both the learning experience and the resources you’ve invested in pulling together that class.

A train-the-trainer program can help ensure that you’ve given the trainer the opportunity to practice and demonstrate that he or she is ready for success. Train-the-trainer sessions can take a variety of formats, and it’s important to choose the appropriate format for your situation. Here are a few methods to consider.

Course Review

If you know the trainer well and feel they can confidently deliver the message and content as designed, they may only need to review the new course or updated material informally with the instructional design team. The trainer can walk through the materials and ask questions while the instructional designers point out key ideas or tips for conducting the activities. This approach may save time, but it will not allow the trainer to practice most of the delivery, so use it for smaller courses or trainers who are familiar with most of the content.


If you are confident in a trainer’s content knowledge, but they are new to leading classes or to this particular instructional offering, consider modeling. In this method, an instructional designer, SME or lead trainer delivers the session, and the new trainer watches and participates as a learner.

Additionally, consider using this approach as a pilot with a group of target learners. This tactic can be cost-effective, because the course is delivered on schedule without adding a separate session just for the new trainer. This method typically does not give the new trainer the ability to practice, but they can see how the course is designed and hear the key points and instructions from someone who knows the content.

One requirement for this method is that the modeling trainer needs to be adept at delivery in order to make it an effective session. If the modeler is caught up in over-explaining, skips key messages, or manages time or the class ineffectively, then the new trainer has a poor example of how to deliver the training.


If the trainer is experienced with some of the content and just needs practice in how to lead the activities for the audience, you may want to use the teach-back method. In this format, the trainer studies the course in advance of a scheduled train-the-trainer session, during which they deliver the course to a small audience consisting of instructional designers, lead trainers, managers and SMEs and receive feedback.

This approach allows the trainer to practice with a small live audience and see how the group responds to their interpretation of the content and instructions. It also gives the audience the opportunity to gauge the trainer’s understanding of the content, timing for activities, and the types of questions and discussions that might arise. It is more useful for both the instructor and the audience than modeling or course review, but it will require more preparation time for both parties. Additionally, if for some reason any members of the invited audience do not attend, it may limit the effectiveness of the session.


Another way to train a trainer who is either new to facilitation or is learning an updated version of a previous course is to use tag-teaming with an instructional designer or master facilitator who knows the course. With this method, the master facilitator delivers the first part or day of the course to demonstrate the style, explain the content and point out key messages. The new trainer then takes over for a second portion or day and continues training. Alternatively, the trainers could alternate throughout the day.

In this approach, the master facilitator is there to coach or steer the course while the new trainer is practicing, and the new trainer can ask questions or ask for help along the way. Tag-teaming can happen with a pilot audience of learners or in front of a stakeholder team for practice. Of course, there is some risk involved, a live audience of learners may be impacted if the new trainer stumbles significantly, but it is worth consideration.

Whichever method you choose, allow time for trainer preparation before and after the train-the-trainer session. Great training delivery is an art, and classroom training is large investment of time and resources. The success of the classroom session depends on the ability of your trainer to deliver key messages, keep learners engaged and leave the audience wanting to provide a good evaluation. Give your trainer the best preparation tools and time to maximize the investment and ensure success of your programs.