Are your training sessions dragging on for too long? Wondering how long a training session should be? Are your training workshops not delivering the desired results because they are too short? Getting the length of the training session/s right can make a big difference in the perceived quality of the training.

Best workshop timing and length i.e. how long should a training session be

Why the Timing, Length, and Duration of Workplace Training Is Important

Training sessions that are too lengthy can lead to fatigue and decreased engagement, resulting in decreased retention of information.

Make the training too short though and you risk not providing enough time for participants to grasp key concepts and the key points you are trying to get across.

By striking a balance and finding the optimal duration for your training sessions, you can maximize participants’ attention and their learning potential.

Additionally, session length can impact the overall training experience and participants’ motivation to continue engaging with the content.

To create effective and impactful training sessions, it is essential to find the right duration that strikes a balance between providing enough time for learning and preventing fatigue or disengagement.

In this article, I will explain all about how to go about choosing how long to make your workplace training session so that it is the ideal length.

Best duration for a training session

Short Sessions vs. Long Sessions: Pros and cons

Both short and long training sessions have their advantages and disadvantages.

Having awareness of these advantages and disadvantages can assist you in making well-informed decisions regarding the duration of your training sessions.

1. Short Sessions: Why Are Shorter Sessions Sometimes Better?

Pros:

  • Increased flexibility: Short sessions can be easily accommodated in busy schedules, allowing participants to allocate time for learning without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Enhanced focus: Short sessions encourage participants to stay focused and engaged throughout the entire duration, as they know the session will be concise and to the point.
  • Improved retention: Research suggests that shorter, more frequent sessions can enhance information retention compared to longer sessions.

Cons:

  • Limited depth: Short sessions may not provide sufficient time to delve into complex topics or engage in in-depth discussions.
  • Fragmented learning: If the material being taught requires continuity and a holistic understanding, short sessions may result in fragmented learning experiences.
Pros and cons when choosing a training session duration time

2. Long sessions Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Comprehensive learning: Longer sessions provide ample time to explore complex topics, engage in discussions, and delve into the details, ensuring a more comprehensive learning experience.
  • In-depth discussions: Longer sessions allow for more in-depth discussions and interactions among participants, fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
  • Time for reflection: Longer sessions provide participants with the opportunity to reflect on the material being taught and apply it to real-world scenarios.

Cons:

  • Fatigue and decreased engagement: Lengthy sessions can lead to participant fatigue and decreased engagement, particularly if the content is not delivered in an engaging manner.
  • Time constraints: Longer sessions may be challenging to fit into busy schedules, making it difficult for participants to allocate uninterrupted time for learning.

Example Course Duration Lengths to Choose From

Employee training materials

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

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:

1. One or Two 2 Hour Sessions

One and two-hour training sessions can be very popular with many companies because they help to limit the amount of time staff need to spend on training, as opposed to doing their job.

Certain employee training is perfect for short sessions, such as when providing a taster session or an introductory session.

The Introduction to EDI training course materials are perfectly suited to a short session because it is an introductory course.

2. 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.

Another great example is when, for example, providing ‘Unconscious Bias’ training (also known as ‘No Bias’ and ‘Anti-Bias’ training).

This is a topic that really only needs a 2-hour workshop because the ideas are relatively straightforward and are thus perfectly suited as a 2-hour or half-day workshop (at the most).

One final example is when providing Mental Health awareness in the workplace workshops.

This is a course that involves some basic concepts and guidelines for participants and includes three or four classroom activities. This really does not need to be more than a 2-hour or half-day course.

3. 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, 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.

4. 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 allow plenty of time to practice what is taught, such as through role-play and interactive sessions.

5. 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.

Factors When Deciding the Length of a Training Session for Employees

Deciding on the course duration length

There are many considerations when evaluating how long a workplace training session should be.

These factors can help guide you in creating sessions tailored to your participants’ needs and preferences.

1. Type of Material Being Taught

The complexity and depth of the material being taught should influence the duration of your training sessions. If the subject matter is complex or requires in-depth discussion, longer sessions may be necessary to ensure participants have enough time to fully understand and apply the concepts.

2. Attention Span of Participants

Understanding the attention span of your participants is crucial in determining the length of your training sessions.

Studies have shown that the average time a person can focus depends on factors such as age, interest, and cognitive ability.

For example, younger participants may have a shorter ability to concentrate versus older participants. By considering the attention span of your target audience, you can design sessions that align with their capacity to focus and engage.

3. Learning Objectives and Outcomes

The desired learning objectives and outcomes of your training program should also inform the duration of your sessions.

If you have several complex learning objectives to cover, longer sessions may be necessary. On the other hand, if your objectives are more focused and can be achieved within a shorter timeframe, shorter sessions may be more effective.

By taking these factors into account, you can create training sessions that are well-suited to the material being taught and the needs of your participants.

Training course materials

Tailoring Session Length to Different Types of Training

Different types of training may require different session lengths to optimize learning outcomes. Here are some considerations for tailoring session length based on the type of training:

1. Introductory or Basic Training

For introductory or basic training sessions, shorter sessions may be more appropriate.

This way you avoid participants feeling overwhelmed.

2. Skill-Based Training

Skill-based training, such as hands-on workshops or practical exercises, may benefit from longer sessions. This provides participants with sufficient time to practice and refine their skills.

3. Complex or Theoretical Training

Complex or theoretical training sessions may require longer durations to cover the depth and intricacies of the subject matter. This allows participants to fully grasp the concepts and engage in meaningful discussions.

By tailoring session length to the specific type of training, you can optimize the learning experience and ensure participants have enough time to absorb and apply the knowledge being presented.

Strategies for Managing Time Effectively During Training Sessions

To enhance the effectiveness of your training sessions, mastering time management is essential.

Here are some strategies to ensure a productive learning experience:

1. Develop a Detailed Agenda

Prior to each training session, create a comprehensive clear plan detailing the main topic areas to be covered and how much time you plan to spend on each.

This creates a structured framework and ensures participants know what to anticipate.

2. Simplify Complex Topics

Break down intricate subjects into smaller, more manageable segments.

This approach enhances comprehension and prevents overwhelming participants with excessive information.

3. Integrate Interactive Elements

Spice up your sessions with interactive components like group discussions, activities, or quizzes to maintain participant engagement and foster active learning.

These activities help diversify the session, combatting monotony and aiding in time management.

4. Utilize Visual Aids

Harness the power of visual aids such as slides or videos to streamline information delivery and enhance engagement.

Strategic use of visuals not only improves understanding but also saves valuable time.

5. Reserve Time for Questions and Feedback

Allocate specific time slots for participants to ask questions and provide feedback.

This practice guarantees timely addressing of their inquiries and fosters their active engagement in the learning process.

Through the implementation of these strategies, you can efficiently manage time during your training sessions and foster an environment conducive to focused and productive learning.

How to Decide the Ideal Length or Duration for Your Training Sessions

While there are general guidelines for determining the ideal duration of training sessions, it is important to gauge the specific needs and preferences of your participants.

Here are some ideas to help you estimate the optimal duration:

1. Conduct Surveys or Polls

Before designing your training program, conduct surveys or polls to gather feedback from potential participants.

Ask about their preferred session length and factors they consider important for an effective learning experience.

2. Pilot Test Sessions

Conduct pilot test sessions with a small group of participants to gauge their engagement, attention span, and overall satisfaction. Collect feedback after each session to make informed adjustments.

3. Analyze Participant Feedback

Continuously analyze participant feedback to identify patterns or trends regarding session length.

Pay attention to comments regarding engagement, retention, and perceived value of the training.

4. Monitor Participant Performance

Assess participant performance and progress throughout the training program. If participants consistently struggle with certain topics, it may indicate that more time is needed to cover those subjects effectively.

By gathering feedback and monitoring participant responses, you can refine and optimize your sessions to best engage the participants and to achieve the learning outcomes.

Experimenting with Different Session Lengths and Gathering Feedback

To fine-tune the duration of your training sessions, consider experimenting with different lengths and gathering feedback from participants. Here is how you can approach this process:

1. Divide Participants into Groups

Divide your participants into different groups and assign each group to a session of varying lengths. For example, Group A could have shorter sessions, while Group B could have longer sessions.

2. Collect Feedback After Each Session

After each session, collect feedback from participants regarding their engagement, comprehension, and overall experience.

3. Analyze Feedback and Adjust

Analyze the feedback collected and compare the results between the different session lengths. Look for trends or patterns that indicate which session length was most effective in terms of engagement and learning outcomes.

4. Revise and Enhance

Utilize the feedback and analysis obtained to revise and enhance your training sessions, ensuring they align with the optimal duration.

Use the feedback to drive how you go about then adapting and developing your training in the future.

By experimenting with different session lengths and gathering feedback, you can continuously improve your training program and ensure that participants are getting the most out of each session.

Other Workshop Structure Considerations

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

I prefer and recommend trying and keeping 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 program into a 3-day training program in certain circumstances.

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

Conclusion: The key to Successful Training Sessions

Finding the perfect duration for your training sessions is essential to achieving your training goals. By considering factors such as the type of material being taught, the attention span of participants, and the desired learning outcomes, you can create sessions that are well-suited to the needs and preferences of your audience.

Experiment with different session lengths, gather feedback and leverage technology to continuously refine and improve your training program.

By optimizing the duration of your training sessions, you can maximize participant engagement, retention, and ultimately, the success of your training program.

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Dr Valeria Lo Iacono