Given all the work leading up to a training session—assessing business and learner needs, instructional design, slide creation, and so on—it would be easy to assume that the preparation process is well understood and consistently executed. And it is, up to a certain point. However, there is often one step in the process where it is not. That is the step between design and delivery. At that step trainers make a variety of choices about how to get ready for delivery, based on habit, their level of confidence with training content, and time.

For many trainers, choices are guided by the notion that “Practice Makes Perfect.” You’ve probably heard team members say, “I know we’re pressed for time, but let’s try to fit in a few dry runs.” Or after a workshop you may have heard, “If only we’d had more time to practice…” The problem is that practicing in this way is not the solution and often part of the problem.

Practicing to be perfect is a type of rehearsal.

Rehearsal is about taking control. Actors rehearse. The CEO of your company rehearses for important speeches. The goal of rehearsal is a very controlled, predictable performance. Rehearsal is about narrowing options. It’s about finding the best way to deliver something. It is a tool used to eliminate the unknown and pre-determine behavior.

Instead of rehearsing, what trainers should do is anticipate the training conversation.

Anticipate the training conversation. This type of preparation is about expanding options, not narrowing them. It involves (1) building flexibility with content so that it can be explained to the satisfaction of a variety of learners, (2) focusing on overall structure of the training to determine learner takeaways and applications from each portion, and (3) anticipating how learners will respond to the training—what questions, concerns and potential confusion might they have.

The goal of this type of preparation is to make delivery efficient, clear and responsive to learners, not perfectly predictable.

Here’s what trainers can do to anticipate a conversation with learners.

  • Think of the plan (and all it includes) as a framework for the conversation, a framework that supplies a starting point, a sense of order and context for the conversation. This will pull you away from scripted delivery, and give you the freedom to improvise without losing sight of your goal.  
  • If you are the type of trainer who feels lost without rehearsal, focus your energies on flexibility. Before the workshop, think about a variety of ways to explain the information you’re delivering, not just one “best” way to explain it.
  • If you are the type or trainer who dislikes any form of rehearsal and prefers to speak off the cuff, learn to trust the plan to keep you on track. It’s not a straightjacket. It’s just a framework. 
  • Anticipate and welcome questions, comments and pushback. During delivery, seek reactions from learners. The best way to persuade a group that the training content is useful and relevant is to address their input in the moment it happens.


In the training environment, the relationship between trainer and learner is fragile. It can be easily destroyed by anything that feels false or forced. So never approach delivery as a process that should be perfected. Focus instead on bringing it to life through a lively exchange between you and your learners.

Dale Ludwig is the president and founder of Turpin Communication, Inc.