The transition between training design and delivery is never easy, especially when the designer and trainer are different people. Decisions about structure, examples, exercises, interactions, even slide design may be intuitive to the designer and profoundly confusing to the trainer.

When things don’t go well, it’s easy for trainers to blame the design.

It’s common to hear, “If only this were laid out differently, I would have been able to explain it better” or “This slide has never made sense to me.” For designers to blame the trainer, “You didn’t follow the plan and ignored the script in the facilitator guide. You strayed too far off course.”

Success occurs on two levels

This handoff from designer to trainer would be much easier if designers and trainers came together to understand that training succeeds on two levels. The first level of success is about achieving the learning goal. The second level, which is much more difficult, is about managing the process and ensuring that conditions are created for fruitful learning to take place. This goal is achieved when learners feel that the learning process itself is appropriate, efficient and safe. For true success, both levels must be met. When this doesn’t happen, learners fail to engage and learning suffers.

What can designers and trainers do to ensure that the process goal is met? Let’s look at things from both perspectives.

Designers must anticipate the demands and the potential of the learning conversation.

Successful design is not simply about accuracy of content, timing of delivery, and planned discussions and activities. It also has to help trainers launch the learning conversation that will take place in the classroom. To help the trainer achieve the process goal, designers should:

  1. Frame content so that it seems important and relevant to learners.
  2. Help the trainer think about the process as a whole and not just a series of modules.
  3. Design slides to be easy to deliver.
  4. Make every exercise optional and provide reasons for including or not including it in the classroom.
  5. Prepare the trainer to anticipate and manage push back and skepticism.

Each of these recommendations requires giving up some control and trusting the trainer to manage the learning conversation. Designers should not blame trainers for the failure of a particular training session if the design isn’t flexible enough for effective delivery and learning.

Trainers must use the design to guide the learning conversation.

Success in a face-to-face workshop relies on the trainer’s ability to engage and manage an unpredictable, and at times, non-linear learning conversation. That means they need to understand that design never guarantees success, no matter how good the design may be.

It is the trainer’s responsibility to keep things orderly, on track and respond to the in-the-moment needs of learners. To help achieve the process goal, trainers should:

  1. Respect the designer’s intention, but be willing and able to make adjustments to it when necessary.
  2. Frame each portion of the training in a way that’s appropriate for learners in the moment, even if the design does not include such a frame.
  3. Not assume that an activity will engage learners. Learners must be fully engaged in the process before the activity begins. That level of engagement is the trainer’s responsibility alone.
  4. Make connections between what is being learned and the learner’s work.
  5. Find ways to customize the learning to emphasize relevance for the organization and the individuals in the room.

When designers and trainers work together to achieve both the process and learning goal, they will earn the trust and goodwill of learners and serve the business better.