Like a good book, a great workshop needs a well-considered opening and a fulfilling ending. How we open and close can have great impact upon the success of the workshop, how well objectives are achieved and the effectiveness of the lessons taken away.

I was very impressed by a discussion started by Dr. Preeti Vats in the ‘Trainers Network’ LinkedIn group.

She asked, “What is your most favourite way of opening a training session? Do share with examples and scenarios. “ There were so many interesting answers that I then asked a similar question about favourite ways of CLOSING a session.

There were so many useful and varied tips that I have selected some of my favourites from both discussions and copied them below. I’m not saying I agree with them all, or suggesting they would work for everybody, but hopefully they will spark some great ideas for all you trainers and coaches to develop your own.

My grateful thanks to Dr Preeti and all the contributors.


Dr. Preeti Vats What is your most favourite way of opening a training session? Do share with examples and scenarios.

Every trainer has his/her signature style of opening a session. What’s yours and how did you find it. 🙂

Matthew Page-Hanify • I like to start training sessions by getting people up out of their chair and doing something physical for 10-15 seconds. This generally makes people smile and gets the blood flowing so they are less sleepy. I also do this in the middle of the sessions so that again they have a moment to refresh and re-focus.

Shridhar Jahagirdar • One of my favourites is an icebreaker where each one in the group (including myself) draw a picture of an animal whose qualities resemble with mine and then show it to the group and talk about it for one minute.. It works as a real icebreaker!

Sylvia walker • I agree it depends very much on the subject, context, the group and the timing (what else is going on in their world?) Also did they volunteer for the training or where they sent by their manager? One exercise I have used successfully…you need a bit of time….ask them What sort of animal is X.?……….X being the subject of the session. Provide sticky notes, pens and work in small groups. This gets people engaged and using their right brain. They came up with an owl….. Very wise, a snake…. slippery, a chameleon changes from day to day!!!!!!!…the value is in the discussion…i.e. X meant different things to different people. I then went on to explain more about X

Sylvia walker • depending on numbers………a variation of the expectations / concerns exercise which challenges ‘passivity or reluctance and encourages ‘active learning’ by engaging people from the start involves more physicality which generates more energy and curiosity. Ask people to work in pairs, briefly introduce themselves & share expectations and concerns. Give them small sticky notes to record key points …it helps them to focus……. (Different colours for expectations and concerns?) Only give them a few minutes…….then go round asking them to introduce their partner…’post’ the sticky notes on 2 Flipcharts labelled Expectations and Concerns…… which involves them getting out of their seat / comfort zone etc……..remember to review these throughout the training

Ian West • As many of you have said, it depends upon the situation and the group. But the most important thing for any participatory workshop is giving ownership to the delegates, so I usually begin by asking the group a question that can get them talking and not me. Even something as basic as “Who has come the furthest today?” can start some debate with delegates trying to outdo each other.
For structured ice-breakers, I often say I want to learn as much as I can about the group so I give out cards with two different questions, (everybody’s card is different) to each delegate and ask them to go around the room and see how many ‘yes’ answers they get. Usually other cards are tailored to the subject of the course with one serious and one light-hearted question such as ‘Have you ever been arrested on a business trip?’
This gets them out of their seats, and makes sure they introduce themselves to the rest of the group.
After five to ten minutes I go around the room and ask them each to tell me what they have learned about the group, even asking who it was who answered yes to the light-hearted questions and asking them to tell us more.

Andrew Witsey • I will always try and use an icebreaker that is relevant to the topic being delivered. Usually I won’t explain why a particular ice breaker is used, relying on people to make the assumption that it’s just a “getting to know you” type exercise.

What generally happens is that at some point during delivery, a delegate will make the connection between the exercise I had them perform and the relevancy to the topic.

I find that by doing this, the concept that I am explaining takes hold much more dramatically and permanently in the consciousness of the delegates.

When delivering a train the trainer session, I always open with a scrambled word exercise, promoting it as a competition amongst the delegates. It works as follows.

I have prepared several slides containing a jumble of five words. Four of the words can be used to form a four word sentence. The other is discarded. I flash up the slides scoring the delegates a point for the first person to call out the complete sentence.

I also explain that I have randomly inserted several of these types of slide into the body of the course I am about to deliver with the same rules, i.e. first person to call out the sentence gets a point. This extends the “icebreaker” into the training session making it a little more fun.

A part of my train the trainer sessions involves explaining the concept of the trainer’s requirement to positive, upbeat and friendly language when conducting a training session, and the effect that the use of such language can have on delegates.

I explain the priming experiments conducted in 1979 by Srull and Wyre subjects were asked to read a list of words where certain key words were secreted within the list, and the emotional state of the subjects was observed to see if the “subliminal, priming” words had any effect. (It’s worth googling these experiments for a complete explanation and the results).

It’s at about this stage that one of the delegates will make the connection between my “icebreaker”, and the current topic being discussed. At which point I will revisit the original exercise and see if the group can spot the priming words.

This particular exercise has a brilliant effect on the group.

Marc Bueno • I usually open a training by saying: “I am not your trainer … I happen to be your trainer during this session. I’ll most likely be your student in a subject in which you guys are the SME … ‘cuz teaching-and learning are nothing else than 2 sides of the same coin” …

I am usually concerned about NOT conveying the (wrong) impression that I am a sage on the stage but rather a facilitator…I believe that this type of attitude / teaching style not only breaks the ice but also helps to remove learning barriers that could negatively affect the training sessions and the learning experience be it online or in-class. After that, I try to introduce myself, not focusing on my degrees or qualifications but rather on how I can help them achieve their goals through that course.

Riyaz Khan • Very interesting discussion and great Ideas…

The very purpose of ice breaker is to make the audience relax and the BIGGER purpose is for the trainer to get to know the audience better.
The methodology may differ from person to person or situation to situation.

However the need of the initial ritual can’t be done away with. I can never imagine a training session where i don’t know who the audience is and i straight away start discussing my content.

It would be quite similar to a patient going to a doctor who immediately prescribes medicines without speaking to the patient at all.

This initial bonding exercise between the trainer and trainee is very important for the flow of ideas in both directions.
If you feel that some icebreakers have been flogged to death, just use simple introductions. A warm smile and a heart to heart welcome can be the simplest and effective ice breaker.

Deepa Ramakrishnan • I think this discussion thread has some great ideas…thanks Dr. Preeti 🙂

My input –

If the participants don’t know each other, one of my objectives would be to get them acquainted, which will help them become comfortable and open up during the session.
So, as each participant enters the training room, I would tick his or her name off the list, but present them with a different person’s name tag. Each participant would then have to go “figure out” whose name tag they have, and also introduce themselves to other participants.

Ian West • One thing that has become clear, which should be borne in mind is the difference between internal and ‘public’ workshops. In internal workshops the delegates may already know each other and there may already be group dynamics in action and unspoken hierarchies or in-group/out-group actions. With ‘public’ workshops the delegates are likely to be from different organizations and part of the icebreaker objective may be to start the forming/norming/storming/performing process.
Another key difference is that in public workshops the delegates have almost certainly chosen to be there and have probably paid for the session. With internal workshops the delegates may have no choice and been instructed to be there. They have no automatic buy-in. The two dynamics are totally different and require very separate tactical approaches.

Rhett Farber • I have workshop participants come into room and write their name on sticky nametag, along with a word (or symbol) that best describes them. After introducing myself and our company, I Will Not Complain, I then introduce them to our contract for the workshop. This contract, the Hand of Trust, is something we all possess. I visually show them as I open up each finger from my “power fist”: pinkie finger represents Safety (Physical and Emotional), ring finger symbolizes Commitment, mid-finger is Respect for Each Other as well as Yourself (you must hold the top of this finger when flashing it to the group and let them know it’s ok as long as you hold the top of this finger!), forefinger is Communication (and more importantly Direct Communication), and thumb is Motivation/Encouragement. I get everyone to agree to this contract and let them know that we can stop the workshop at any time if someone feels someone in the group has broken the Contract and is not staying Committed or showing Respect to Others, etc.

I follow up by asking the group to what they want to Give/Receive from this workshop, write down on flipchart some of their responses…and then show them what the workshop objectives are (based on Needs Analysis conversation with workshop stakeholder(s)).

The workshop (1-2 days typically) then begins with an integration of experiential learning activities, facilitated discussion, assessments, and more…always keeping everyone engaged and focused with interactive solutions, and sprinkled with FUN.

I’ve been designing and delivering 100s of workshops for MNCs based in China for over 6 years.

Health and Happiness,


Colter Brinkley, MS @ • I have found great success by just asking, “What is the most important thing that you would like to learn today”? It is a great way to ignite interest, excitement and engagement!

Glenise Anderson • For smaller groups I also ask what they specifically want to walk away with from the session. I write on the board and we revisit at the end. I ask if it has been answered and what they will do now. On the rare time, they question hasn’t been answered, we brainstorm the question to come up with solutions. For larger groups a friend of mine gets them to write something at the back of their books and revisit at the end of the session.

Paul Boross • 1. Get rapport
2. Make them laugh
3. Explain that it is their job to question everything I say. If they think something I am saying is bullshit, it is their job to challenge me.

People learn in a variety of ways and there will be an element in the audience who will need to challenge in order to integrate the learning.
Also, from a personal perspective, if people challenge me then I will develop new arguments and grow as a trainer.

Elena Dolmat • What I like I call “Buried Problems”. You ask participants to write down their problems, which they have for the moment and they think about, on a piece of paper. Then you collect all the papers and put them into a box and say something like: now your problems are buried and you don’t have any of them. It makes people think about the training, make them get into a good mood and smiling 🙂

James Fisher • I always start my sessions the same way. I tell the story of a picture I have in my office. It is a picture of Alice in Wonderland talking to the Cheshire Cat. She arrives at a fork in the road and asks the Cat, which way should she go? The Cat asks her: Where do you want to go? She replies that she doesn’t know where she wants to go. The Cat then tells her: Then it really doesn’t matter which road you take. Alice tells the Cat: I want to end up “Somewhere”. The Cat replies: If you walk long enough, you will get there.
The moral of the story is that no one can help you unless you know where you are going, not even me. The first question to answer is why you are attending this session and the second question is what you expect to get out of this session. Then I help them achieve their goals.

Swati Arora • There are various things that one can do to start the session in a light and humorous mood. The icebreakers also depend on the maturity level of your audience; need to have some fun element as per the target audience.

One interesting icebreaker that I have tried with Sr. Mgmt teams & a couple of times in my TTT sessions is the “Celebrity Couple”. The game is pretty simple & brings about a fun element in the beginning of the session itself.

You need to prepare name tags with the names of celebrities on each of them making sure you have couples cut out for each participant. e.g.: “Bill Clinton” on one & “Hillary Clinton” on the other. Stick the name tags at the back of each participant & let them move around in the trg room. They need to ask questions to their fellow participants and find out who they are. Remember the questions need to be close ended only like “Am I a girl?”; “Am I related to the Film Industry?” etc. As soon as they locate which celebrity they represent, they need to then hunt for their partners. Then the two partners sit together and interview each other and introduce each other to the rest of the batch.
To make it more interesting and to boost their moment, one can also add a competition quotient to it – like the first 3 couples to come to the stage win a prize.

Sylvia walker • Yes not only do these engage people from the beginning and avoid them becoming passive, you can start your assessment right away…….by observing how people engage in the activities and with each other……this can help you decide who to put into subsequent groups……….e.g. to ensure an even spread of ‘activists’ and ‘reflectors’ etc.
If you walk around the groups you can also pick up on language which can tell you a lot

Kishor Shankaranarayan • Giving them a pleasant shock works for me always, they do remember you at a later stage of life 🙂

Kishor Shankaranarayan • Example: – you start as a delegate yourself and play a waiting game, start a general conversation to break the ice and then let them know you are the trainer

Paul Murphy • lateral thinking challenge

Start with a video clip of a famous interesting film playing….

That gets their attention, even as you are setting up your equipment etc. and you don’t even need to speak.

Then when you start… ask them what that film has got to do with the training content today…

If they are smart, using lateral thinking they can figure it out.


David Beckham football video – goal highlights.

Training topic is HR function.

“Out HR department is like a football team” an analogy.

This approach is interesting, doesn’t require you to actually speak at the start, and will challenge them also.

Glenise Anderson • I put two sentences on the white board before everyone arrives.

“Tell me & I will forget; Show me & I might remember; involve me and I will understand” and then give the explanation I would like them to participate so they will understand.

At the bottom of the whiteboard I write “I get it; I think I can do it & I’m willing to try it” and I explain that this is how I would like them to feel when they walk out of the room.


What is your favourite way of CLOSING a training session?

We have had some great input on ways of opening a training session, but perhaps you would like to share views on best ways of closing to ensure learning is retained, delegates are motivated, and lessons put into practice.

Bhaskar Babu Boda • It’s really very imp element of discussion. My methodology of closing any training session: 1. let all the participants form a circle.
2. As them to share the following one after another
a. One take away from the session
b. In which context he/she is going to implement it
3. Each one of them should say a new point and no repetitions are allowed
4. Trainer should also say those two points

This way of closing session is found to be more effective in recapitulation of all the main points of the training program and it helps all the participants to realize the outcomes of the training program.

Deepa Ramakrishnan • In addition to the above points made by Bhaskar I would also say at the end of the session all participants must make a written “start-stop-continue” agreement. I.e.
– what will they “start” doing after the session
– what will they “stop” doing after the session
– what will they “continue” doing after the session.
This also works as a follow up mechanism for the trainer (after a month or two) as this becomes a written commitment.

Anurag Sharma ( • I had stared this concept ‘contract with self’. All the participants would fill up a contract with self. On Continue – stop & start doing things. A copy would be given to them & 2nd copy was scanned &sent across as mail 2 weeks after the program. This mail was resent 2 weeks later. 2 more wks. later, this copy was ‘snail mailed’ to them.

Arthur O’Loan • A small addition to helping them ‘walk into the future facing the front’ – summary of the above insights- I give about a 2 minute explanation of how and why I put the program together the way I did.

Barbara Crockett • this works with a group of about 20 or less…it’s called a Sit Down Drill. Have everyone stand and think about something they can implement as a result of the training. Once they have identified something they say it out loud then they can be seated.

Nancy Claxton • for wrapping up a day of training, I like to show a slide of “What? So What? Now What?” I prompt the group to input what was learned (What?), why it was important or critical to their work (So what?) and how they will transfer the knowledge to their workplace (Now what?) Good stuff.

Quentin Emery • Great ideas above folks, it’s really good to see trainers thinking about how the learning will “stick”. A fun and quick technique I use is to state up front that any training course (or any other meeting for that matter) is only of use if something is going to change as a result of it. I then ask them to stand in a circle and state what they will change as a result of being on the event. It helps to have a koosh ball or similar which the speaker can hold and then pass/ throw to another member once they’ve finished talking (adds a bit of fun/ exercise to the activity).

Margaret Greenhall • I have a little pot of mini highlighters. I pass them round the room (I usually work with about 16 people). I ask everyone to share their most interesting or useful part of the session in return for their highlight they get to keep one of my highlighters (corny but gets a little giggle). A great way of getting a summary of the session without talking for ages yourself. It is a fun and light-hearted way to finish and they have great fun choosing their highlighter. To get them go to Asda (UK supermarket part of Wal-Mart) and they sell pots of 12 in the stationery aisle for about £1.50.

Gary Haseman • at the start of the session, even before the learning contract, I always on a flip collect a list of the delegates expectations. If possible I blue tack this to the door to the training room and say that before we leave we will check to see if these expectations have been met.

The acts as an excellent prompt for me to tailor the contents of the sessions to meet the exact perceived needs of the attendees.

I end by re-visiting the formal objectives and then revisiting this flip. If it is impossible to meet some of the expectations I facilitate a discussion as to how these can be met in the future and we agree whose responsibility this will be. Hopefully they have been met and the discussions can centre on how this has happened which results in an excellent summary of the event.

Manpreet Juneja • Wonderful ideas! Thanks everyone! Besides doing check-on-learning, I’ve lately started using an activity that complements it.

Make everyone stand together and give them some balloons to blow. At the same time, give few of the participants pins or pens (anything that can poke), BUT DO NOT instruct them to poke or burst the balloons, just tell them to be around. Keep prompting them though by saying – Hey, are you ready – You’ll notice that people who’ve pins in their hands are getting ready to burst the balloons and they all have mischievous smiles. On the other hand, people who’re busy blowing the balloons, prompt them saying – Are you ready? Do you need any help etc.?

Ask – Is everyone Ready? When they say ‘YES’, say ‘SAVE THE BALLOONS’ – Remember, this should be said softly with an intention that it creates little confusions.
As soon as people being to save or burst the balloons, start observing them. You can also assign few observers from amongst the participants.

When all the balloons are burst, go ahead with the de-briefing and focus on these observations:

– Even when you said ‘Save the balloons’, people even though they heard it, went ahead to burst the balloons – (Whenever we’re given a choice, our first thought is to be destructive)

– Most of the times, we try to use the POWER (here, pin is the power/post training – knowledge, skills gained would be the power) to harm or under-rate others.

and so on…

Relate such observations with Choices, Attitudes, Change etc… so that they realize the importance of having a choice to implement learnings post trainings.

Gaurav Sareen • my answer is going to be ‘out of left field’ to those already here & the others that will arrive later!

As a ‘rookie’ trainer in the years gone by (when I had no white hairs on my head), it was great fun (and serious business) to recap with the participants and engage them with similar tactics that the replies above detail so well. Obviously I had different games, exercises etc… but they all achieved the same aim. And, we all know what that aim is.

However, now, especially when I am taking leadership or any other PD courses with senior people (whether hierarchically or by life experience in an organisation), almost always, I end the course abruptly at the end of the discussion which follows the final module’s Q&A. I simply say ‘Thank you for coming. Training’s over. You know what to do. Just go do it. Bye bye. See you next time!’ or something on similar lines.

I know this is very unorthodox. But, let’s face it; senior people know why they are there. They have either got their money’s worth during the course or not. And, most importantly, the continuous interaction with them during the course is ample to gauge whether they & I have achieved what we stepped into each other’s lives for, or not.

Those of you who may be shocked by my strategy, that’s ok. I think I know why it works. I think it works mainly, because when a trainer trains senior persons or an organisation’s leadership, the training is always a 2-way street. There is no lecturing, instructing, leading etc… There is an amazing exchange of ideas, information and ‘war stories’ – structured and impromptu. The trainer’s role, at best, is that of a facilitator, and at times, of a mediator. Because, in that environment, we are all at even par. If, as a trainer, I think that I am ‘training’ senior persons or the organisational leadership, then I am deluding myself and will not be in business for much longer.

For those of you who do train senior people or the organisation’s leadership, try my strategy next time. Believe me, your participants will thank you for not indulging in the ‘standard training closing circus’ – this is one of the most frequent comments I get from my participants.

As for other sessions, it’s usually a mix of the abrupt ending mixed with the orthodox tactics.

Val Alexander • Love the balloons. Intrigued by the abrupt ending – I get the idea and will try it out for myself.
One other thing I sometimes do, especially after a challenging and thought provoking session where there have been differences of opinion or approach is to ask everyone to write their name on top of a sheet of paper and pass it to the person on their left. Each person then writes one thing that they have appreciated about the person named on the sheet. They then fold their entry over and pass the sheet to the person on their left and so on until the sheets come back to the named person. We all then read the comments about ourselves – I include myself in this. This then rebalances any residual emotions and leaves everyone on a high.

Ivie Cardinaels • I too follow this unorthodox tactic of Gaurav Sareen. The only thing I add for leadership trainings or senior participants is a ROI or ROO sheet (Return on investment / return on objectives). The participants are given this sheet at the beginning of the session. Those points shared during the training participants feel is an objective or expectation met, they can note on that sheet. This way they have an overview of their added value at the end of the session(s). On the back of the sheet there are some general tips written down on how to implement further their action points or changes they want to make.

Arthur O’Loan • … and if you really believed in the power of statistics, I’d head to the nearest bar and close the program there!!! Where else would everyone be!

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