Tips for Trainers: #1 Know Your Delegate Diversity

Published on: Fri 10 July 2015 by Admin

The Rich Tapestry of Delegate Diversity

An actor friend of mine once said that new actors were the best prepared. I find this very true of new trainers, who usually know their programme content inside out, even rehearsing before they run a first time session. However, one of the key challenges for new trainers, is not whether they will forget the running order, or the detail on this or that model, but whether they can confidently deal with the range of delegate behaviors found in the training room. This is particularly so, when delegates are strangers and not colleagues. Not so easy to prepare for. The following tips will help to minimise the impact of some of the many delegate behavior types.

Mr / Mrs Nice

Lovely to have on a programme, as they usually want to be friendly and nice to everyone. They will show interest in all and generally fuss over nervous delegates. However, on the flip side, they are often quite reluctant to give truthful or constructive feedback.


They say very little and may hardly contribute to group activity. Wallflowers need to be encouraged to speak and contribute from the very start; otherwise they will fade into the background. Take care when putting them into groups, avoid putting too many wallflowers in the same group, or mixing with too many Interrupters or Know-It-Alls for example. Wallflowers may need support, but they often have the answers which might have something to do with the fact they listen well.


Negative about their own abilities and will put themselves down in front of their fellow attendees. Self-doubters lack confidence. Encourage them to recognise and acknowledge their strengths and attributes. Offer praise as and when appropriate.


Always putting other people’s ideas or other people down. Do not make them your enemy but deal with them at the earliest opportunity.  Try not to give them the final say on a subject and encourage the group to counter balance their ‘arguments’. If they persist, then speak to them one on one.


These individuals mean well and will often leap to the defense of others in the group regardless of whether they need help or not. They often take wallflowers under their wing and if bold, will take on the Persecutors! The group will recognise them for being well meaning and appreciate their contribution.


Will often keep interrupting the trainer and sometimes other delegates. It may be a sign of nerves, or lack of confidence and just trying to prove a point. If the interrupter is still interrupting by coffee on day one, then deal with them, otherwise they will become a nuisance and inhibit attendees from commenting.


They appear to have no feelings and are quite dismissive of comments or others in the group. In my experience, this type is not often encountered. It’s usually an act, to cover their nervousness of attending training events. When they realise they are not under threat they relax and adjust their behavior.


Looks for an intellectual framework to conceptualise an experience. Ensure programme content has something for everyone including these theorists. Be sure of your ‘model’ knowledge, provide plenty of handouts if you do not have time to cover theory in much depth

 Mr / Mrs Quick

Want everything done quickly and will show irritation with a slow pace. They are often very intelligent, with an ability to absorb information quickly. Check the programme pace, is it too slow? Are there signs of boredom creeping in amongst other delegates? Keep the pace up, but make the point that people learn at different paces and you must ensure the right pace for all. Keep Mr / Mrs Quick busy and interested.


Taps and fidgets in a distracting way. Is this early programme nerves? If they persist and it is getting on everyone’s nerves then deal with it. In the meantime, keep them busy, ask them questions and see if they will accept the invitation to volunteer when one is needed.


Sad though it is, the true ‘know-it-all’ doesn’t feel the need to learn anything new. However, treat with caution, it can be a front to mask the fact they know very little about the subject and feel threatened. On the other hand they might know more than the trainer. If it is the latter, then utilise their knowledge, ask them to contribute, acknowledge that the other delegates will find their experiences useful. But, don’t focus too much on it, balance asking for their contribution along with that of others in the group

One last comment. After a few months of training, dealing with delegate behaviours becomes second nature to the new trainer. Be confident in knowing that you will soon be able to spot a Know-It-All or Mr Nice within the first five minutes and have developed methods to deal seamlessly with anything they throw at you. It’s the rich tapestry that makes every day different and developing others such a joy.

If you’re a new trainer looking for formal development then check out the RightTrack ILM Academy for Trainers. Or watch Righttrack”s Managing Director, Kasmin Cooney OBE, talk to camera about her approach to developing trainers.