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How to Increase Participant Motivation

Posted by Jeff Welch on 4/17/14 4:00 AM
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Let’s face it, not all participants come to training motivated to learn. Whether they are “prisoners” forced to attend a course or simply just not interested in the subject-matter, it’s likely that you’ll encounter an unmotivated participant a time or two in your training career.


So, how do you get them motivated? Luckily, there are a variety of instructional techniques to increase motivation among your participants. I’ll share three tips that have worked for me in the past.


According to a recent online article in Psychology Today, humans are motivated by three basic factors: Stimulation, Identity, and Security. As trainers, if we can find a way to tap into the psychological aspect of motivation, we might just convert a “prisoner” to an “explorer” and encourage the disinterested to become interested.


1. Stimulation

Humans desire to be challenged and stimulated. Most of us welcome opportunities to be engaged and interested.

 Having attended a few courses in my day, nothing bored me more than sitting through a 200-slide presentation. When I realized that my training experience meant sitting silently among my fellow participants, while listening to the instructor read each slide aloud, I immediately shut down.

 To tap into the stimulation factor, I’d suggest we rethink the “Death by PowerPoint” scenario. Instead, include numerous opportunities in our training courses for our participants to express themselves, work together, and be active.

 When participants have an opportunity to speak and contribute, work together with their colleagues, and complete various tasks, motivation returns to the classroom. Training that is full of activities and exercises goes a long way to promote and restore motivation.


2. Identity

Humans are driven by the need to identify with things they care about.

Tapping into the identity factor brings me to the famous acronym of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). Participants in training may ask themselves, “How is this going to personally benefit me?”

I’ve found that if I point out why or how the training is important to them, they always seem to be more motivated. I try to home in on real-world, personal benefits my participants will find important or useful.

At a former job, I conducted many sales courses for our sales staff. Sales people are often motivated by money. To get their motivation and buy-in, I’d usually ask a rhetorical question like “How many of you want to make larger commission dollars on your next pay check?” From that point on they were all ears.

I realize that not everyone is motivated by money. As trainers, it’s our job to find out what motivates our participants. For some people motivation might be reward and recognition, for others it could be certification or career advancement. Once you know what that motivational factor is, I’d suggest you capitalize on it, in an effort to answer the age old question of “What’s in it for me?”


3. Security

Whether it’s at home or in the workplace, humans want to feel safe and secure in their surroundings. The training environment is no different.

Most people need to feel safe, secure, and comfortable before they can give their full attention to learning. I suggest doing some adequate climate building as part of the overall training process. This can be done by conducting an icebreaker, so your participants can begin to establish rapport with their fellow learners.

Secure climate building can also be done by describing your role as a leader. I always introduce myself by sharing my background and credentials as it relates to the subject. In addition, I take my introduction a step further by suggesting that my role is that of a facilitator. I stress to my participants that I’m there to whole-heartedly assist them in their learning process.


Psychology plays a significant part in the learning process, especially as it relates to motivation. Hopefully you’ll consider the factors of stimulation, identity, and security, and incorporate my personal tips and instructional techniques when attempting to motivate your participants.


What are some of your best motivational tips and techniques?



Dealing with Difficult Participants

Jeff has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Speech Communications and Broadcasting from Western Kentucky University. Before pursuing his passion for training, Jeff worked as a television reporter, flight attendant, fitness instructor, and tour guide. Jeff started his career in training at the daily newspaper in Atlanta. Training seemed to be a natural fit for him since he’s always been a bit of a performer. When at home, you’ll catch Jeff watching a cooking show, recreating a dish he’s eaten abroad, or exploring one of the many great restaurants in the Chicago area. During the summer months, he hits the road to follow the talented drum corps of Drum Corp International—something he’s done since high school!

Tags: difficult participants, instructional techniques, instructor-led training

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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