What to do When a Participant is Not Interested in Training


Sometimes it happens that you’ll be called in to teach a training program for another organization, and you’ll be so excited to get everything ready, review your notes, and head out to the course when the time comes. Except, you know that when you get there, some people might not be interested in learning what you have to teach them. We’ve seen it a thousand times, and nearly every trainer will experience this in their career at some point or another. Here are a few strategies to help you know what to do when a training participant is not interested in your training.

First, know it’s not about you.

Before you curl up in a ball and start rocking back and forth with anxiety about how nobody likes you, understand that the naysayers in your training group would have been acting that way whether it was you or another trainer. So know that it’s not about you, and their lack of participation has nothing to do with you.

Second, know that some training is mandatory.

Despite employer's’ best efforts to provide a supportive learning environment, some bad apples want nothing to do with the often free training that is provided as part of their employment. This is especially true of safety courses, or courses designed to provide professional development such as communication or organization. You’ll be met with lots of disinterest if employees are made to attend training sessions outside of regular hours too. So just know that they have to be there, and as a result, they might not be the most helpful bunch.

Third, power through.

Even when less than ideal participants seem to be sucking the life out of your course, you still need to deliver the content to the best of your ability. Doing so will provide you with many opportunities to change their minds about your training. You can call on them to give their opinions, answer questions, provide feedback and more. Even if they continue to complain about the training, you can walk away at the end of the day knowing you did your best to engage that person.

Finally, keep notes and follow up.

During your training program, offer students the chance to provide feedback and take note of the feedback they provide you. Also, take your notes about students who participated, and those who gave you a hard time about having to attend the training. You can bet your bottom dollar that any employer that hired you is going to want your feedback, so it’s best to keep some notes of your own to provide them with insight into your experience. After you complete the training program, send a thank you note to the employer who hired you to conduct the training and provide your feedback to them. It’s not your responsibility to turn lackluster employees into winning employees. It was your responsibility to deliver the training and engage that person, or persons, to the best of your ability. And you did that. Make sure the employer that hired you is aware of the difficulty you had with certain individuals so that they can speak to them about their behavior and lack of interest in their job. Don’t take it upon yourself to educate those people about their responsibilities. It’s best to avoid crossing that line. Do the job you were hired to do.