How to Be a Wizard at Tech Training Design and Delivery | Beth's Blog

How to Be a Wizard at Tech Training Design and Delivery

Instructional Design

Note from Beth:   At this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, I was lucky to co-design and facilitate a session on technology training with colleagues John Kenyon, Cindy Leonard and Jeanne Allen.   Cindy and Jeanne wrote this great reflection of what we learned and how we facilitated this very interactive session.  As I am planning for workshops in the fall in Cleveland and North Carolina (with Jeanne Allen),  looking back always help you create a good lesson plan and incorporate improvements.

How to Be a Wizard at Tech Training Design and Delivery guest post by Cindy Leonard and Jeanne Allen

The breakout session “How to Be a Wizard at Tech Training Design and Delivery” at the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) originated from an earlier session designed by Andrea Berry, Beth Kanter, John Kenyon, and Cindy Leonard. The session not only included training tips, but modeled them during the session so that the audience interacted and practiced skills directly.

The 2016 session took all of the trainers’ lessons learned from the previous session and improved upon the presentation and exercises. The basic premise remained the same: to give training tips, model them, and to provide “meta” data that gave a glimpse into the minds of the session designers. Andrea Berry had moved onto another job by then, and so Jeanne Allen took her place.

We used a Harry Potter theme to give the session a fun feel. We began the session by polling the audience on training experiences. Adults tend to interpret information received in a training based on existing knowledge in their brains and then integrate it with previous experiences. Obtaining a sense of skill level prior to training helps the trainer make spontaneous decisions about content modification to suit the audience.

In the first portion of the training, Jeanne and Cindy modeled four great practices for designing training content, including:

  1. Spend a little time researching adult learning theory, or
  2. Provide experiential education, giving learners the opportunity for reflection, abstract conceptualization, active experimentation, and concrete experience
  3. Incorporate the three learning styles: visual, audio, and somatic
  4. Give the learners a jolt—an engaging learning activity that lasts for a brief period of time and illustrates one or more important learning points


Next, the learners sorted themselves into stations based on the four Hogwarts Houses and conducted a “Four Corners” exercise in which they discussed how they might incorporate the four “great practices” into their own training practices. This activity allowed the learner to move, engage in small group discussion, and apply analysis to the content.

After returning to a full group, Beth and John modeled great practices in designing training interaction, including:

  1. Setting goals for interactive exercises, such as learner readiness to learn, involvement in discussions, opportunity to practice, and to reflect. Finally, learners made a decision to incorporate the skills in the future
  2. Using a content interaction exercise grid to prepare varied interactive exercises (a blank grid is included with the session handouts)
  3. Engaging in a variety of exercises: thinking, writing, discussing, moving, and making

We had the learners participate in a number of interactive exercises during this portion of the sessions, including a “think and write” exercise and a “share pair/trio” exercise.

Before moving into the final Q&A, all four trainers went “meta” and shared what they had just learned during the session itself:

  • John – Sometimes you have to hold yourself back from shutting down important conversations when planning and facilitating – balancing freedom in planning with the need for controlling flow.
  • Beth – It can be difficult to plan interactive exercises (she explained the set up difficulties and revisions of the theatre style room we used) and that you should always plan but be prepared to improvise or hack it.
  • Cindy – You always have more content than you have time for, so it’s important to pare down and not making people drink from the fire hose.
  • Jeanne – There’s a balance between giving learners control vs. choice while planning exercises (she explained how we four went back and forth about letting the learners sort themselves or sorting them in advance for the four corners exercise).


If you were unable to attend the live session at the NTC, you may still access trainer bios andsession notes and materials online. The session slide deck is also available on

This post was originally published on the NTEN Blog.


Cindy Leonard is the Consulting Team Leader at the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University.


Jeanne Allen is a consultant who is passionate about the network and technology mindset that nonprofits need to succeed in today’s environment, board development to empower nonprofit boards, and capacity building

Leave a Reply