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Planning Course Duration

A very common question that comes up almost every week when I advise trainers, is how long should a training day workshop be?

Deciding on a workshop structure and length in the planning.
Workshop Structure and deciding on the length of the sessions.

Indeed, this is an important consideration and one that you should be asking if you plan to provide training days for others.

The answer is that there are definite time-frames that should be used and these vary according to certain key factors.

The following times-frames are worth considering:

Course Duration

Half-Day Training

If three to four hours is enough time to go through the key concepts and to allow for time to practice these concepts, then a half-day training day will suffice.

This time-frame is very good, for example, for refresher courses and for courses that are fairly basic to master, such as business writing.

Full-Day Courses

A full-day training day can be the ideal time-frame for the majority of courses given that this allows plenty of time to cover the key concepts, and allows for interactive practice sessions and to wrap up the training day.

Introductory courses are especially suited to one day programs.

Courses such as Time Management and Marketing Essentials can be perfect as 1-day workshops. Such courses are not refreshers and are courses where activities can easily be included to make a full day session.

Two Day Courses

Some courses certainly need more than one day, to allow enough time for more complex and difficult to understand subjects.

Two days is enough time to go over harder concepts more than once, i.e. it allows time to refresh these concepts on the second day and also to cover new material.

Two days also allows plenty of time to practice what is taught, such as through role-play and interactive sessions.

Three Day Training

We tend to design very few courses that extend to three days. There is much less demand, although we offer courses that are of bespoke design and there is occasionally the demand for 3day courses.

Three-day courses are especially suited when there are difficult theories and other complex skills to grasp and to master.

Other Workshop Structure Considerations

Training Needs

Before delivering training to a company, you should try to assess exactly their training needs. To what extent and depth do they need to cover a certain topic? What is the level of competence that their employees need to achieve? What level of knowledge and/or experience do they already have of the topic at hand?

You can find out the training needs of your participants by simply asking the company. Your clients should be able to give you an idea, so you can tailor the training to their employees’ needs.

Learning Objectives

As you plan for training, you will have outlined the learning objectives, i.e., what you would like the participants to do by the end of the training.

Based on the learning objectives and the amount of content to cover, you will decide on the best length for the course.

Interactivity Levels

A good training session needs a certain amount of interactivity, i.e. delegates’ participation, in order for the content to be remembered. The more interactivity is required for your training, the longer the session will need to be.

A way to shorten the length of a training session without sacrificing interactivity can be flipped learning.

A flipped learning approach means that participants are given content (such as readings, recorded lectures and videos to watch) before the session, so they can come to the session having already covered the content. They can then spend most of the time during the session doing activities, such as discussions.

The flipped learning approach only works though if:

  • Participants are very motivated to engage with the content before the session.
  • They are given the time to study the content before the training session.
  • They already know the basics about a topic and they need to master the topic in more depth.

Number of Participants

You might also need to consider issues such as the number of people the training must be completed for.

Personally, I prefer and recommend to try and keep training to a maximum of twelve people, when possible.

The number of delegates can sometimes be dictated to you by the company you are training though, so you will need to compromise.

You may receive a request to train 20 people. As a result, you might find that this means needing to adjust the training schedule workshop to best accommodate this number.

This can turn a 2-day training programme into a 3-day training programme in certain circumstances.

Likewise, you might find yourself offering two separate one and a half-day workshops for 10 people apiece.

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Valeria is a researcher and a trainer, with over 16 years of corporate experience as a supervisor. She also taught at university level in the UK.

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