8 ways to increase delegate engagement during in-person training

According to research by two Harvard psychologists, Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, 47% of every waking hour is spent "mind wandering". They found that the human mind is wired for a state of continuous distraction.

It could be that you're sat at your laptop waiting for a meeting to begin, thinking about those 5 emails you need to send later. Or waiting for your train and daydreaming about your weekend plans. Or, it could be, your delegates sitting in one of your training sessions, fantasising about the dream job they'll be qualified for once they've completed their course.

So, how can we keep delegates engaged during in-person training sessions?

Keeping delegates engaged

We've put together a guide of 8 engagement strategies to consider when planning and running your training sessions. For a quick preview, these are:

  • Knowledge checks and assessments
  • Integrate gamification
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Training materials
  • Incorporate AR and VR in learning
  • Breakout rooms
  • Surveys
  • Follow the 1/3 : 2/3 principle

Keep reading to learn more about how each of these strategies can help to transform learner engagement (and overall satisfaction) during your training sessions!

Why not check out our blog with 14 fun training session icebreakers for more inspiration? 

Knowledge checks and assessments

Having checkpoints to test your delegates' understanding throughout training is a great way for them to recall the information they've just learnt (which further helps them to remember the course content long-term). This can be as informal as a discussion between trainer and delegates, or peer to peer. Another option would be to have short, scored quizzes - which could include multiple choice, true/false, matching or short written answer questions.

Not only do knowledge checks benefit the learner in terms of engagement and overall knowledge retention, they can also give trainers an insight into where their delegates might need additional help with their understanding.

It's also a great idea to have a similar (but maybe more open) set of questions at the beginning of the training, so trainers can gauge the level of understanding before the course has begun. This allows the content to be tailored to the specific group of delegates and prioritise what needs to be covered if they have limited time.

Integrate gamification

An opportunity for a healthy bit of competition can be a great way to keep delegates engaged! Gamification can be used in a few ways, including:

  • Using a storyline throughout your training
  • Personalised challenges to overcome (and so not directly competing with delegates)
  • Leader boards, reward badges and individual scores

It can really transform learner participation, giving them a better experience and an overall sense of enjoyment around a course.

Ask open-ended questions

It sounds simple, but open ended questions can play a huge part in encouraging critical thinking and overall deeper understanding during a training session.

Questions that are asked in a way for delegates to justify their own opinion, or interpret the information given to them are far more likely to encourage responses. It gives an opportunity for those who may be less confident in their knowledge of the topic, as there's no risk of an incorrect answer. Open-ended questions can have multiple "correct" answers or perspectives; they can also present more interesting discussions. If your delegates know to expect these types of questions, it can also encourage them to read the course material at a deeper level so that they can take part in the discussions.

Training and learning materials

Ensuring your learning materials are engaging in themselves is so important. It may be the first thing a delegate sees when they book (pre-course materials), or when they enter your training centre - make the most of that first impression.

The learning materials used throughout the course also of course need to be of great quality, interesting and offer meaningful support to supplement the training course.

Incorporate AR and VR in learning

If your type of training allows, incorporating Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) into your training can be a great way to engage learners as it offers a unique, hands-on experience.

Depending on the AR and VR equipment used, the technology allows for many more options in your training, simulating multiple environments and situations, all from within a standard classroom.

AR and VR in training also comes with a whole host of benefits, especially when training for more hands-on (and potentially dangerous) working environments. It can:

  • Keep delegates safe whilst training
  • Reduce mistakes on-the-job
  • Increase knowledge retention

Breakout rooms

Splitting a larger number of delegates into smaller groups is another option for keeping training engaging.

As it allows learners the opportunity to work together on a specific task, it can be a great way to further drill down into the detail of a specific topic in a more interactive way, further reinforcing the knowledge in your learner's minds.

It can also be a huge help for your delegates who aren't as confident in the topic as others, and so haven't been as active or engaged in the larger group. It allows for a safe space for them to ask questions in their peer groups without the larger audience.

If you have a smaller group of learners to start with, consider incorporating some meaningful discussion time into your training sessions to mimic what would happen in a regular "breakout" room.


Surveys are a great tool for engaging learners at every step of their training course.

Pre-course, they can be helpful to expectations at the beginning of a course, allowing trainers to tailor the course content to focus on certain topics for more time, for example. These can also be great to compare to the post-course survey, to see if the course content matched what the learners were expecting.

During the course, short surveys at the end of each session or training day can be great to measure engagement and overall satisfaction with the course, or specific trainers if you have multiple. It can help the delegates feel listened to and thus increase their engagement with the course, especially if they can see that you're actioning their feedback throughout!

Post-course, overall satisfaction surveys are so important for gauging how well the course suited the delegates' needs, and can be an opportunity for learners to raise any suggested improvements to the course.

It's of course just as important to balance the length/frequency of these surveys, as learners may become fatigued with answering so many questions! We suggest designing the surveys during the course to be short, quick and easy to complete; with multiple choice or rating scale format questions. This will keep the response time down, and hopefully increase your overall response rate.

Follow the 1/3 : 2/3 principle

The "1/3 : 2/3" principle provides a great framework for keeping your learners interested and interacting during training sessions. It simply means that no more than 1/3 of your training session should be presented by your facilitator - think traditional classroom style, with your trainer at the front and the learners listening.

The other 2/3 of the session should actively involve learners in a more interactive, hands-on way, using any of these methods:

  • Roleplaying
  • Pausing for reflection
  • Using "think-pair-share" - more on this below

The "think-pair-share" framework is also pretty self-explanatory. Have your learners think or write down their thoughts first, before pairing up with another learner to discuss, before sharing with the rest of the group.

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