Training Delivery

by Terry Wilkinson

Developing participation

We all know that people learn best when they are active, involved and having fun. But how do we avoid the event turning into a lecture and get those quiet people to speak out?

Participation techniques

Here are some handy techniques that will help! They can be used as stand-alone interventions, but for best effect you may need to use a combination of several, your choice depending on the situation.

The most obvious method, which you should use on all occasions, is to state clearly that this is what you want. At the beginning of your session, therefore, set the expectations by introducing the training event as highly participative; tell delegates they will be discussing ideas and sharing experiences. Tell them up front that they will get more from the training by participating. Set the scene.


Today’s training is highly participative; you will be doing small group exercises, sharing experiences and discussing ideas. The more you put into today, the more you will get out of it, so lets go for it – have some fun and get involved, OK?

70/30 airtime

Encourage delegates to do at least 70 per cent of the talking. Avoid the temptation to lecture or be the expert.

  • Defer any questions back to the group.
  • Include exercises, discussions and activities in your plan for the session.
  • Ask questions about all key points rather than telling/lecturing.
  • Encourage discussion wherever possible.
  • That’s a great question; what do the rest of you think?
  • We are going to look at running meetings today – from your experience what can go wrong?
  • What are the key things a chairperson should do?
  • Why do we need to manage meetings?... and so on.


Ask open questions

Open questions can’t be answered with yes or no, so they allow delegates to provide more information, which opens a subject up for discussion. Ask further probing or follow-up questions to expand the subject even more.

Open questions begin with words and expressions such as what, why, when, where, who, how, tell me about and explain. Beware – a common mistake is to add ‘can you’ or ‘will you’ onto the front of the question, allowing a yes/no answer.

Recognise contributions

Reinforce delegates’ participation with both verbal and non-verbal recognition. Remember to praise the participation and not just the content of the response (so they still feel praised even if they give a poor answer). Some trainers may feel awkward lavishing praise on their delegates. If that applies to you, don’t avoid praise; instead, pick the methods you are most comfortable with, so your praise sounds genuine.


Verbal – thank you for bringing that up, mmmm, yes, absolutely, fantastic...

Non-verbal – smile, nod, thumbs up, recording what they said on the flipchart, summarise, paraphrase, follow on question...

Protect new ideas

If you want to develop a creative learning environment, remember to acknowledge and recognise anyone who expresses an idea which differs with the majority view.


Thanks for that suggestion; it’s great to hear a fresh perspective on the issue.

Avoid contributing your own opinions

As the trainer, you are in a position of some authority, so be aware that your opinion may make others reluctant to express theirs. Give key information when it’s needed, but avoid the temptation to give more.


My opinion is one of many; I’d like to hear from the rest of you.

Encourage group interactions

Often, delegates will address their points to the trainer at the front. Encourage them to directly interact with each other rather than coming only through you. Removing eye contact as they address you will usually have the delegate seeking eye contact elsewhere; be careful, however, not to appear rude. Questions and exercises can also be planned to encourage this interaction.

  • Discuss this with the person next to you.
  • George, you’ve dealt with that before – what advice do you have?

Defer questions to the group

Rather than just answering yourself, let the group bring in their expertise (you may not have the answer anyway).

  • What do the rest of you think?
  • Who has an idea to help?
  • What does the group think?

Provide examples

Examples may be used to illustrate a concept and this can really help delegates understand what you want from them in an exercise or discussion. Generally, people will not participate if they’re not clear about something.

  • I once faced a situation where...
  • You know at work when......... happens?

Show of hands

This is great for testing your assumptions and gaining interest in a new topic. When followed by an open question, it’s a really good way to promote participation.


‘How many of you... ’, then, ‘Fred, tell me about what happened.’

Using names

You can direct questions at individual delegates to get their participation simply by using their name. Be careful though: if they don’t know the answer, you could cause embarrassment. A gentler way of achieving the same result is to use eye contact. Just look at the person you want to draw in; if they don’t know the answer they will look away.

Group work

To draw out the opinions of those people who don’t like to speak out in the group, set up discussions in small groups and ask each to elect a spokesperson to give feedback. This method takes a little more time but is useful when you want to hear everyone’s ideas. Follow-up questions on the points raised can then be used to draw out those quieter people.


Brainstorming ideas to the flipchart is another way of drawing out those quiet people. Ensure you set the ground rules clearly – no criticism, one idea each and then on to the next person, keeping within time restraints and so on.


Remember to write up EXACTLY what delegates have said or seek their permission to change the words – delegates can feel slighted if you change what they said without asking.