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How to plan an effective training session

05 Dec 2022
Mark Smith, International Expert Trainer and Curricurulm Writer

Continually developing employees’ skills is essential for the smooth operation and growth of any business. Planning your training sessions in advance helps to maximise the impact of your training, making more efficient use of employees valuable time and energy. However, it can be a challenge to fully capture and maintain engagement within a session.

So, how do you plan a training session that strikes the perfect balance between engaging and informative that delivers the required learning needs?

Here we cover five critical factors that need to be taken into consideration when planning an effective training session.


When it comes to delivering training, a common occurrence that you will need to consider is that learners might be at different stages in their development. For example, they may demonstrate different amounts of knowledge, have varying levels of skills, or exhibit unique behaviours. Therefore, you will need to be flexible in supporting learners at their own pace and learning level. Generally, you will differentiate your sessions naturally as you adapt to a group dynamic. However, there will be times when you need to think on your feet and adjust content to suit the immediate audience.

Identifying prior learning

It’s good practice to identify prior learning among your group. Ideally this will take place before you deliver your training session. However, sometimes the first inclination you get of prior learning is when you meet your learners for the first time. Identifying prior learning techniques can include reviewing application forms, interviews, skills assessments and Q&A sessions.

Identifying prior learning is common practice in further and higher education. While it may not be as simple to collate for less formal training in a workplace, it is still a helpful tool when planning training sessions or programmes.

Establishing learning needs

In training sessions, identifying learning needs is crucial to bridging the gap between a learner’s current level of knowledge or skills and the level of knowledge and skills required of them.

Methods for identifying learning needs include to organisational data, focus groups, competency frameworks and 1-2-1 sessions. A mix of some of these methods at the same time will give the best results.

Some of this data will be sensitive, particularly where individuals’ knowledge and skills gaps are exposed, so you must always respect confidentiality. Identifying and understanding learning needs will help you to plan effective training.

Choosing content

A common problem is that trainers fail to prepare training that meets the required learning needs. This is often because they have a limited brief and therefore make assumptions on what to include.

Typically, you can break down learning into 3 categories:

  • Knowledge – What learners need to know.
  • Skills – What learners need to be able to do.
  • Behaviours – How you want learners to act or behave.

Establishing which of these are required will influence the type of session that you plan.

Learning aims and objectives

Learning aims and objectives define what knowledge it is expected a learner will have acquired by the end of a session or programme, what skills they will have acquired or what behaviours they might change or develop. They should be concise, specific and should adequately define the level of your content.

Gaining the skills to deliver effective training

Our trusted train the trainer programmes can help to gain the critical skills and knowledge to deliver effective training:

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