It took two years and nine months. But I did it.

After over two years of virtual events, I was pleased to facilitate a training programme on interpersonal communication and business emails for top-notch staff at a globally ranked organisation. I delivered two full days of live workshops – after a covid-induced absence.

Now I hadn’t done a live workshop for what seemed like an eternity. So the introvert in me was drained when I wrapped up the second day of training.

But what an exhilarating experience it was! I had a great time in class – from sharing information and watching the skits participants performed in class (some had hidden acting talents) to the banter, experiences, laughter, and applause.

And when I received the glowing formal feedback below, I felt validated that my work mattered and I was able to provide value to the participants.

Screenshot 1

Below are the statistics:

Screenshot 2

The learning points from participants:

Screenshot 3

And the final remarks:

Screenshot 4

But why should you care about the feedback received from my live workshops?

Here’s the reason:

Despite the changes in the world of work, with remote work, flexible, and hybrid arrangements gaining more popularity across the globe, one fact remains incontestable about training programmes:

It has been and always will be about the audience.

I’ve recently reflected on my experiences as a trainer and facilitator for live events (two full days of training mentioned above and three sessions for other clients some months later). And below are three things I’ve learned that amplify the experience of participants:

1) Be ready to ditch your well-laid plans

Before the programme on interpersonal communication, I had done the usual rituals that had worked for years: I nailed down the topic with the organiser, gathered information about the participants, prepared an outline, drew up my notes, rehearsed with and without my notes, practised with and without slides, etc.

I knew my content thoroughly (non-negotiable for a trainer/facilitator) and ensured everything was relevant to the audience. Therefore, when I stepped into the room to meet the 35 participants in person, I was looking forward to the interactions.

However, as the sessions progressed, I needed to become flexible when participants asked questions and shared scenarios for consideration.

Since I always prioritise audience participation and engagement, I quickly ditched my ‘perfect’ outline and focussed on aspects participants wanted insights on.

Yes, I shared communication fundamentals since those provided the foundation for effective communication. But my focus on the audience – addressing their concerns, refuting assumptions, and stating clearly why/how some practices would not work or get them results led to some ‘aha’ moments for the participants. From their nonverbal cues and exclamations on what resonated to the robust discussions in class, I perceived that the sessions were well-received.

I wasn’t wrong.

Below are two emails I received from participants soon after the first full training day.

Email of appreciation 1

And the second:

Email of appreciation 2

As a speaker, trainer or facilitator, plan and rehearse your sessions as you should. But ensure you are fully present to read the room and become sensitive to the audience’s reactions.

Being able to tweak/revise/cut certain aspects of your material on the fly to accommodate your audience’s needs is a mark of a true expert.

Cultivate this critical skill of ditching your excellent plan to favour the audience’s focus, and you will deeply connect with attendees. They will feel heard and appreciated. They’ll also be inspired to follow your recommendations (as stated by one participant in the email shared above).

What good is your expertise if it doesn’t impact your audience’s lives or inspire them to change for the better?

Repeat after me:

It always has been and always will be about the audience.

2) Tell (personal) stories

I wrote and published a bestselling business book last year on how professionals, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and corporations could use effective communication to get results. As I pored over research for my book, I became fascinated with storytelling. I learned about the neuroscience of storytelling. I came to appreciate that storytelling is an incredible tool of influence because stories make the listener’s and the storyteller’s brains ‘sync’—called neural coupling—resulting in both parties experiencing the same emotions.

I believe that the ability to tell stories is a superpower that will serve you well.

Yet, I didn’t list any stories/anecdotes in my plan for the live sessions, nor set out to tell stories. (This lapse will change henceforth).

But as my sessions progressed and participants shared their experiences, I remembered a poignant account relevant to the discussion. So I told my story. What happened next was incredible: Participants listened intently (you could hear a pin drop); they were fully ‘tuned on’, and at the end of my story, some shook their heads in disbelief and others displayed strong reactions. My personal story amplified their learning points.

I’d heard communication experts declare that humans are wired for stories. I agree. So, incorporate stories into your sessions. Whether you triumphed or failed, recount the experience as you would to your best friend or significant other. Be invested in your story, and the body language you display will heighten your delivery. Trust me on this.

If no personal anecdotes come to mind when planning your sessions, share relevant accounts of others (which I did recently in another live workshop for a start-up in Lagos, Nigeria). But ensure each story is relevant to the topic being discussed. Proceed to explicitly link the learning points from the story to the matter at hand.

Stories disarm even the most sceptical audience.

Use and hone the superpower of storytelling to boost your connection with the audience and increase your credibility as the subject matter expert.

3) Set an activity

Getting the audience to participate in activities energises them, especially in afternoon sessions.

Forget that adults are professionals and that a certain level of decorum is expected in formal training sessions and workshops. People want to release their inner child, so indulge them.

Get them up or tell them to move around. Activate their natural competitive muscles by dividing them into groups and giving them some activity to do.

For my session on interpersonal communication, I wrote two simple scenarios and divided the audience into three groups. According to my instructions, each group chose a scenario, discussed it, and designated two team members to act out the scene. The groups were given 15 minutes for the task and immediately set to work.

I silently observed each group. Participants were like children – discussing, arguing, laughing, and determined to outdo the other groups. They went into full competitive mode.

When the time allotted elapsed, two participants from each group acted their roles and fully committed to the task. After each act, the other groups erupted into thunderous applause. Then I told the other groups’ members to comment on the performances; they were to start by commenting on what the actors did well and then suggest what they could improve.

Some participants had impressive acting skills, and I joked they might have a shot at Nollywood – the booming Nigerian film industry.

But behind the camaraderie, entertainment and fun activity lay a critical message, which the participants could identify. The assignment was a powerful way to distil the key learning points and a great reminder of how minor body language tweaks could improve interpersonal relationships at work.

So set relevant activities in your training programmes and workshops and task the participants to list learning points. Then link their findings to your central theme.

The attendees won’t forget the activity, and they’d appreciate the opportunity to shine. And you, the trainer, will appear like a rock star for driving the entertaining, informative session.

Aim to include an activity where feasible for live workshops and training sessions in particular. But also consider a way to get participants involved in a task for online and hybrid events (polls, breakout rooms, etc.). Just ensure that whatever activity you introduce is relevant, heightens comprehension, and inspires participants to change.

According to neuroscience, our brains love novelty and changes in patterns. So as a bonus point, introduce a different segment every 10 minutes in your training programmes to  ‘reboot’ audience members’ brains and keep them engaged.


After a two-year hiatus, I couldn’t have asked for a more satisfying in-person training programme.

The formal feedback received two months later (shared at the beginning) also made me realise that the three elements shared in this post elevate the audience’s participation.

So the next time you’re booked to facilitate a live training session, keep the three recommendations shared in this article in mind to ensure a successful event.

Your audience members will be grateful for the rewarding experience.

Over to you:

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N.B: Images are courtesy of Geralt via Pixabay. Screenshots of formal feedback and email are courtesy of Lucille Ossai.

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