No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

How to manage delegate during classroom training?


I am quite new to training and I am running some classroom based courses.

I am unsure how to deal with delegates who prove to be difficult or if they appear to not want to be there, or start using mobiles etc, especially if they are more senior, managers etc.

Can anyone offer any advice please?
Karen Sedden

12 Responses

  1. Don’t ignore it
    The one mistake I made when first in training was to ignore disruption.
    If people look like they don’t want to be there then I suggest more engagement, maybe questions about the course or asking them to apply what you are teaching to their own environment.
    Reflecting a question is also a really good technique to see whether someone is asking a question to be awkward.
    For example (I teach software), if someone says ‘Yes but can it do this?’ and it’s obvious that they are asking just for the sake of it, you can reply ‘Why would you need that function?’ or ‘Give me an example of what you mean’ That’s usually enough to stop it. If it continues, then I usually say ‘I would happy to spend time discussing that with you after the session’ which takes wind out of sails.
    With the mobile problem, I usually tackle the offender at first break and say ‘I think your mobile is a little disruptive to the other people on the course, would you mind turning it off/putting on silent/ taking calls outside the classroom?’ Which is usually enough.
    Hope that helps, Mat.

  2. Dealing with distractions
    Why not agree a code of conduct or some ground rules at the beginning of the course. One of these could include the need to turn mobiles off unless expecting a really urgent call(e.g from the Police)?

  3. Difficult Delegates
    Hello Karen

    I completely agree with the other comments posted.

    A few months ago I had to roll out lots of training to groups who didn’t really want to me there. I found that setting the ground rules at the outset of the session went a long way towards solving/preventing the problem. Some of my ground rules were please direct your questions to me, rather than to each other, please switch mobiles off, or at least on silent and if you have an essential call to take, please step out of the room. (With this one I always point out that I will carry on even if someone does leave the room – people don’t like to get left behind so sometimes this was deterrent enough).

    I also make sure I go over the objectives to make sure they are clear to everyone, so at least they know why they are there and after I have covered them I always asked the group if that was the sort of thing they were expecting. That way of anyone really doesn’t think it is for them – that gives them the chance to go!

    On one occasion, I still had one person being disruptive and I just called an early tea break and took him aside to ask why he was behaving in that way. I couldn’t ‘win’ him over – so we agreed that he should go. The rest of the session went fine!

    Hope that helps!

  4. Establish agenda and ground rules
    The best practice is to establish agenda and ground rules like switching off mobiles during a training, not to leave the training room during a session, a commitment from the HR or the training manager about the seriousness of the participants by declaring a list of pre-requisites and code of conduct like keeping questions for the time allotted for Q&A etc.

    The whole aspect is linked to how you start and the rapport that is established in the 1st hour or so.

  5. Display any Ground Rules
    Just a quick point that, once any Ground Rules have been agreed that they are written up on Flip Chart and displayed where everyone can seee them. They can then be refered to or added to when necessary.

  6. set the rules at the start
    It may seem obvious, but if you neglect to set the ground rules at the beginning, BEFORE there are issues, it makes it much more difficult to do so. After the fact, even if you couch it in very general terms, the whole room will know who in particular the rule is aimed at and it can be quite divisive.

    Particularly when working in an international setting, some norms which you might think are too obvious to state are, in fact, very different from country to country; the obvious one is time.

    So get the rules agreed by all at the start. It is time well spent.

  7. don’t judge too quickly
    My advice would be, don’t be too quick to judge. In my experience the people who are difficult at the begining often settle down and join in. If they don’t i tackle them at coffee and ask them if they are ok. I do this in a supportive way rather than as if I’m telling them off. That way if there is a problem i can sort the situation out accordingly.

  8. Process not content!
    Great comments already, with which I more or less agree…

    However, I think the biggest mistake that new trainers make – and let’s face it, far too many experienced trainers for that matter – is to focus on the CONTENT of the training rather than the PROCESS. So 90% of the preparation goes into the WHAT, rather than the HOW.

    Well, in my humble opinion, the WHAT should be just about a given – if you’re not an “expert” in your subject (I know we can debate the term!) and know it in your sleep I am not at all sure you should be there – it’s simply asking for trouble if there’s a chance somebody in your audience is more clued up than you are!

    Also – if you’re not sold yourself on the benefits which are on offer from your session it’s going to be hard to sell it to somebody else!

    So from here you can concentrate on the PROCESS – and in my view 75% of that is about developing great rapport with your audience. That, in itself, of course demands some skill – but I have noticed that these are the skills that the great trainers/presenters work on.

    I have had the luxury of having gone around the block a few times now (hands up! – I don’t think I would want to be starting again!) and my heart leaps when I realise I’ve got an awkward b****r in the room. It doesn’t often happen, but does give me a welcome challenge and my personal goal becomes to get them excited in a very positive way about the content of the session so that there is a net benefit – not just to them but to me and the whole of their peer group.

    Good luck – enjoy the challenge – and remember that you’re entitled to be learning too!


  9. Many thanks for your advice
    I just wanted to thank everyone who has contributed.

    The advice given has been very practical and useful. It has made a huge difference and has boosted my confidence in handling those tricky situations.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!