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5 Training Activities to Engage Your Next Training Group

A few weeks ago, my colleague Erin Clarke, led a session at the Washington Banker’s Association’s annual conference for HR and training professionals. The session focused on new and unique activities to engage learners. As part of the session, Erin distributed a handout with activity instructions for five of the activities she demonstrated, and that handout can be found here. Of course, effective training is more than just an engaging activity.

5 Activity Handout

On a recent podcast, I shared some thoughts on the differences between an “engaging” training and an “effective” training. As part of this conference workshop, Erin also touched on this point, mentioning that these may be engaging activities, but they’re not necessarily activities to be used universally. Rather, they should be used with intent and purpose, always connected to specific learning objectives.

While we want you to download this handout and use these activities if they’re helpful in your efforts to engage your learners, following are a few possible learning objectives and/or use cases if you’d like to use any of these activities with purpose and intent:

Messy Start

This opening activity can be used any time you want to activate prior knowledge in your learners or find out where your learners stand on a topic before you begin with the instruction. This can be used by facilitators of all skill levels.

How I See It

This activity is designed to get your learners engaged in discussion and critical thinking about anything from sexual harassment to institutional racism to effective customer service practices. This activity is generally done in small groups, and the power of this activity lies not just in the small group discussions but also the large group debrief. With the debrief being such an essential element of this activity, it’s recommended that this activity be incorporated into training sessions in which the facilitator is a little more advanced and skilled in facilitating in-the-moment conversations.


Have you ever played the children’s board game Guess Who? The idea behind this training activity is similar. Participants need to use the process of elimination to identify the correct concept they’ve been trained on. This activity works well as part of a sales training, where participants need to narrow down a customer’s needs to identify the best product or service to offer them. It can also be used in some types of leadership development training where managers may need to identify the kind of personality they’re working with to adjust their management or leadership style accordingly. Once the materials for this activity have been set up, it doesn’t require a lot of advanced facilitation skills, but anyone using this activity should practice it before they get in front of a live audience.

Pair and Share

This is a classic engagement activity that can be found in both the K-12 classroom setting and in training rooms around the world. The idea is simple – in order to facilitate engagement and limit the possibility that the same people answer every question that a facilitator has, you ask people to find a partner (usually the person sitting next to them) and share their thoughts on a concept or piece of content, before someone from the large group offers their thoughts for all to hear. Sometimes people just need time to process and it’s helpful to discuss a thought or concept with just one instead of needing to share a thought they’re forming with the entirety of the training group. This also works well when you throw a question out to the large group and you’re met with crickets. “Ok, I’d like everyone to take the next 30 seconds and share their thoughts with the person next to them, then I’ll ask the question again for anyone in the large group to answer.” This activity can be used by facilitators of all experience and comfort levels.

Sticky Note Brainstorm

Similar to the Pair and Share, this activity is designed to allow (challenge!!) everyone in the training room to come up with their own thoughts before they’re “let off the hook” by having one person in the group offer an answer. As the name of the activity would imply, you’ll need to distribute a few sticky notes to everyone in attendance and have them jot down one or more thoughts (one thought per sticky note). As with several other activities on this list, this activity can be facilitated by presenters of all experience levels.

Unfortunately, Erin only had an hour in which to deliver this presentation, and so she had to limit the number of activities she was able to model and share with the group. If you’d like instant access to these and about 100 other activities that are designed to meet specific learning objectives, you can always give the Soapbox instant lesson plan generator a spin!

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