Choosing a good training provider can feel like a minefield. There’s so much on offer and plenty of providers who can talk the talk. Have you ever booked in a session that seems to ‘tick the box’ but your students come out of the other side not actually being able to implement what they learned? The waste of time and money becomes a real headache and can put you and your students off of engaging with training all together.

In this blog post, I want to help you to understand why some training doesn’t cut it so that you can avoid wasted resources. I also want to help you spot the skills that a good trainer needs so that you can book your future training programmes with confidence that they will have an impact for your students.


photo of students in a lecture

Training is the process of teaching someone how to use a particular skill, carry out a behaviour or apply knowledge.

It’s worth noting that this is subtly different to other terms:

Lecturing focuses more on the delivery of information through talking.
Teaching is more of an umbrella term which may include imparting knowledge, skills, understanding or experiences.

I’m a stickler for accurate language and so when I am talking about training I am specifically focused on the learning of skills. This means that by the end of my sessions I know that the students in the room will be able to DO something new or better than before – not just know things.


I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit hole because the list is endless, right? Training that is unsafe, extortionate or wildly inaccurate would obviously come under the bad training banner. But here are three commonly accepted poor training practices (in my view) that I want you to be wary of and how to avoid them.

1) Chalk and Talk or Death by PowerPoint

If more than half of the session is someone simply telling your students ‘stuff’, then you’ve accidentally booked yourself a lecture. Now, lectures can be excellent for learning – especially when it comes to knowledge and models. But simply hearing about something does NOT mean that your students have been trained.
Avoid this by: Checking out the learning objectives in the training proposal. If there’s a heavy focus on to ‘know / understand / appreciate / be aware of’ then these sections might be lecture based. Make sure you are also seeing to ‘practice / apply / discuss / reflect / explore / use’.

2) Lacking personal context

A bad trainer may present something as self explanatory and expect the audience to know how to use it in their own lives. This can leave students feeling lost, needing to ask further questions or losing interest because they can’t see the personal benefit.
Avoid this by: Asking your trainer how they will relate the content to the students lived experiences? Where are the opportunities for self reflection and questions? Make sure there is time allotted for this in the session plan.

3) The ONE way

I get really frustrated when ‘gurus’ tell young people this is ‘THE way’ to do something (revise for your exams, give a speech etc). It’s a lie – there are always multiple ways to go about something. Also, telling young people that there’s only one way to do something can be really damaging for the people who feel ‘that way’ doesn’t work for them. Are they broken? If that way doesn’t work, then maybe nothing will?
Avoid this by: Being wary of trainers who advertise ‘My 5 step thing’ or ‘The guaranteed process’. Anything that sounds like a fixed set of instructions is likely to be limited. Instead, look for trainers who present a range of related tools and models and have time built into their sessions for students to explore them and choose what works best for them.


We know that training is the development of practical skills. We know what bad training looks like. So how do we do that well? In my experience, here are 6 keys to effective training:

  1. Time to practice – A great training session gives your students ample time to actually have a go at the skills they are learning. (Which is why I despair at being asked “Can you do us a 1 hour session on conflict resolution?”
  2. Scaffolding – This is all about putting the right support in place for each person. Students should be practising skills just outside of their comfort zone (the zone of proximal development) but not so far out that they get lost or overwhelmed. As a trainer, I need to see what people can do, know when to give extra help and when to gradually remove that help so that students have confidence on their own.
  3. Meta-learning – Learning about the process of learning. When I help students to understand how they learn best, it means that they can refine their skills practice in a way that works for them.
  4. Feedback – Getting feedback from the trainer, peers and engaging in self reflection means that students can build on their strengths, identify areas for development and more effectively action plan their next steps.
  5. Facilitation – Helping the students in the group to engage in the process together: sharing experiences, asking questions, collaborating and giving peer feedback.
  6. Coaching – There are many muddled definitions of coaching out there (some mistake it for giving advice!). What I mean by coaching is using a mixture of active listening and effective questioning to work with students to support their own thinking, reflection and action planning.


Facilitation and coaching are both fantastic standalone skill sets.
…I’ve done plenty of work using 1:1 coaching to help people work on their goals and self understanding. Gemma's style of work brings together training, facilitation and coaching skills.
…I’ve facilitated conferences, dialogues and community groups where I had nothing to do with the conversation content.

But the work I love most is when I get to mix training, facilitation and coaching together into my signature style. Each element brings something important into the room:




And when all three components mix – that’s when you get something magical!


You want your students to effectively manage their busy schedules so that they can focus on their studies as well as making time for their wellbeing and personal development opportunities.

For the training element of the session I will show your students all of the amazing tools that they have at their disposal and how to use them. (Scheduling, self motivation, prioritisation, overcoming procrastination, boundary setting and more.) I explain each tool clearly and give your students time to try out each one – writing to do lists, planning their diary and practising self motivation tools. I give them feedback on what they are doing well and possible next steps in their development. Sounds good.

Why stop there? Now let’s add in the facilitation.

Throughout the session I build in opportunities for your students to work collaboratively – share your revision plan, ask each other the prioritisation questions, give each other feedback. What does this mean?

Now let’s really go to town. Inject the coaching.

Insightful coaching questions can be used to deepen the learning, add the personal context and support effective application of the skills after the session. Some key questions I would ask include:

My style of mixing all three approaches together ensures that students get the practice, support and processing time for deep learning.

All of which adds up to them feeling confidently equipped to use the skills – in their real lives! (and isn’t that what we’ve been yearning for!?)

and don’t just take my word for it…

“It was useful having the time to really think about myself and what I do; being able to reflect on my work life balance and consider what are the important things for me in my life. I can begin to manage my time more effectively.” – Lynn Finney

“This made me think of how much I procrastinate and how much better I would feel achieving more. I’ll use what I learned to work smarter and plan my days / week, starting today.” – Paula Lactott


I hope that I’ve been able to show you that not all training is equal – and that’s probably why some of your training experiences have fallen flat.

Going forwards, I hope that you feel confident demanding more from your training experiences. If you really want your students to become confident, effective young leaders then make sure all of the key ingredients are included:

If you are ready to book training with a real impact for your students then book in free training consultation to discuss your needs.