5 Tips for Increasing Training Impact at Your Organization, by Steve Whiteford

– An Overdue Rant –


Granted, I come from a theater background which is surprisingly disciplined, and in which the importance of place, staging and performance is fully understood. So, of course, my suggestion is that excellent training and teaching also require these elements.

However, in the past few years I’ve noticed more and more that organizations do less and less to accommodate training. Maybe this is because now that we’re so focused on e-training we assume that all prior intelligence about adult learning and creating a respectful, comfortable, and inspiring environment is off the computer screen. But please try to relate how much care we put into the purposeful placement of information, its attractiveness, entertainment value, user friendliness, etc.

Of course as a concerned professional, I always try to shift into commando gear and do whatever I can with whatever I’ve been given; in other words, re-arrange the room, make seemingly absurd and affrontive requests for common supplies and/or considerations of space. I do make these in advance, yet am often taken-aback to realize no one gave them due consideration. I guess my guidelines and purportedly antiquated beliefs, in spite of all my politeness and willingness to roll up my sleeves, appear to be the crazed and incomprehensible ranting of a Shakespearean world view.

Apologies in advance to folks I’ve worked with/for who have done a good job. Against the general trend, I ask that you consider these few points:


  1. You can maximize any environment by considering comfort and sightlines while being sure there is enough space for required interaction and practice. Provide rooms that are big enough, attractive – or at least clean, can house any needed equipment, afford privacy and quiet, and have enough room for the number of participants you want to train. I know that sounds elementary but not long ago I had a job where the room was big enough for the comfort of 20 and was crammed with 35. The discomfort was a great distraction it was clear to participants that no one cared and this was another check mark for required CEUs.


  1. Allow enough time for actual learning. I know all companies habitually claim low budgets, and even though we are brainwashed by the e-idea that information is learning, time is another signal of care and importance that reconciles learning styles. I’m tired of being asked to present life-changing content in a half day or less!


  1. PowerPoint is not the ubiquitous resident evil. Use it when appropriate to focus your group and add learning impact. Remember the studies regarding Read/Hear/Do.  Seeing (Read) and hearing at the same time increases the percentage of retention dramatically. 60%! Put the screen center, avoid 2 screens in a room where 1 is enough. 2 screens turn the presenter into a voice-over. AND – who came up with those screens that seem to be made for tables but are put on the floor? A shoulder height screen is hard for most of your audience to see. Scrap them. Also get rid of the flat screen TVs! Most of them are not large enough to effectively show PowerPoint. I suggested scrapping the TVs for presentation at a major convenience store chain and they finally did it. Amen! I had the misfortune of experiencing a trainer teach from their iPad (reading it) with no projection of the information. That was painful. Never do that.


  1. Staging – set up the room to allow Purposeful Movement. That means for the trainer/speaker and the participants. DON’T put the screen to the side, in the corner. That kills See/Hear.Arrange tables to fit the needs of both forward-focus and interaction. There are several standard designs. Use them vs. classroom whenever possible. Be sure equipment arrives on-time and works, and that all required/suggested materials are on hand. A properly staged room helps the trainer maximize messages and learning through the use of effective staging. And go ahead trainers, know effective training – stretch a little – try Touch- Turn-and-Talk with PowerPoint to sometimes emphasize content. Move with purpose and lead minds. Just walking down the center of the room (if the room allows) doesn’t make you Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society!


  1. Finally – Provide some food. Access to snacks, drinks, at least some chocolate makes people feel special.

The point is – when it appears that an organization cares about training and it’s treated as something special, people feel good and learn more. End of quick rant.

Copyright – Steve Whiteford 2014

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