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What kind of training participant are you?

As trainers, we can often be some of the worst participants when we actually have to attend a training ourselves. Maybe we should change that.
training participants

No, this isn’t some sort of personality quiz (although that’s an interesting idea for an upcoming blog post). It’s a real question.

When you attend a training session, what kind of participant (or non-participant) are you? 

This is a training blog, so I typically write content with the trainer in mind. This past week as I was co-facilitating a train-the-trainer course, I was struck by how amazing the participants were. I began to ask myself (and my co-facilitator) what seemed different about this course, and specifically, what was different about our participants?

I don’t know that we were ever able to put our fingers on it, but last week’s experience really got me thinking about myself as a training participant. At the end of the day, you can have the best training in the world, but if the participants don’t enter the room in good faith and with a willingness to learn and participate, the entire experience – for both trainer and participant – can never reach its full potential.

So today I ask: what makes for a great training participant (and when we find ourselves as participants instead of trainers, what behaviors and attitudes should we bring)?


The people we were training were experienced trainers in their own right. I’ve led many groups of experienced trainers, and many of them resent the idea that they need to sit through my course and/or don’t feel like they can gain much.

The group I worked with last week never showed resentment or a lack of humility. They arrived with open minds, they asked excellent questions and they were open to everything that was asked of them – in activities, discussions and when they were challenged to stand in front of the class and deliver a portion of a curriculum that few of them had ever seen before.

Willingness to Participate

Throughout the 2-day class, I never saw a single participant on their phones. Nobody sat out any of the activities or tried to make an excuse that they just wanted to observe for a bit. We never set a ground rule that you needed to put your phone away, each participant decided on their own that they would be present.

When they were put on the spot to deliver a portion of the curriculum they’d never seen before in front of their peers (knowing they would later receive feedback, also in front of their peers), not a single person flinched. They used the time that was given to them to prepare and they prepared (as opposed to using that time as an unofficial break, and then winging it when it came to the actual presentation).

When it was time to present, they got in front of the group and delivered their portions with confidence, as if they’d been facilitating the program all their lives.


Some facilitators used their preparation time to add their own spin or way of introducing content to their delivery. Others identified areas where they could add their own stories or short case studies into the materials based upon their previous experiences.

At one point, when one participant accidentally dropped the PowerPoint remote and broke it, almost a dozen other participants reached into their own bags and offered the use of their own PowerPoint remote as a “spare”.

When one PowerPoint remote went down, there were 10 others available to fill in!

Back to the Question

I know that, as a professional instructional designer and trainer, I can be quite judgy when I’m asked to be a participant in a training session. As long as there is good design, this past week’s experience made me realize that my own choice to bring genuine curiosity, a willingness to participate and a passion for the topic can make all the difference – for both myself as well as my fellow participants.

What kind of participant are you? I’d love to hear examples and anecdotes in the comment section!

Have a killer training designed but need help preparing your SMEs or other trainers when it comes to delivering the session (or presentation skills in general)? Drop us a line and let’s see how we might be able to work together to prepare your people for effective training delivery!

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