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ATD Blog

6 Reasons Why Face-to-Face Training Must Stay

Monday, March 25, 2019

The latest report published by ATD on the State of the Industry (2018) found that the traditional, instructor-led, face-to-face delivery accounted for just over half (54 percent) of learning hours delivered in 2017, lower than it was in 2013. E-learning (self-paced, online delivery) accounted for 23.3 percent, but this figure is predicted to grow exponentially in the coming years.

Will there still be a place for instructor-led, face-to-face training in the future, or will new and exciting learning technologies lure organizations and learners away from the training room?

Face-to-face training must never become obsolete. Here’s why.

1. Not everything can be taught by a computer!

Think communication skills, presentation skills, conflict resolution, and negotiation. Soft skills—arguably the most missing skill set in the workforce—need human contact to be taught and learned effectively.

2. It builds communication and interpersonal skills.

Even if the workshop content is not related to communication and interpersonal skills, simply being in a training room with other people builds these skills. Learners need to build rapport, read people, share ideas, ask questions, listen effectively, negotiate, build trust, influence, and so forth.

3. It builds connections within teams.

Running a workshop whose attendees are all from the same team or division allows co-workers to get to know each other on a deeper and different level, as they hear each other’s stories, share experiences, and problem solve together. Suddenly “Jack the Finance guy” becomes “Jack who had that really good idea about . . .” It’s even more effective if the team is geographically diverse, and people usually interact only by phone or email. Putting a face to the name often does more to build connection than anything else.

4. It breaks down siloes.

When a workshop brings people together from across divisions, who may have never met or even know each other, the opportunities to break down siloes are endless. Plus it allows people to hear what’s happening in different parts of the organization, and how other divisions may have solved similar problems.

5. People are more focused to learn if they get away from their “business as usual.”

Face-to-face training is an event that needs to be scheduled as time away from your desk or usual work—dedicated time to learn something new. With self-paced, online learning, people often choose to “fit it in” between tasks in a day or after hours. Without the right priming, learning opportunities are compromised. Whenever we are in a new and novel environment to what we are used to, we are in a heightened state of alert. If that environment feels safe, non-threatening, and fun, our learning capacity is optimum and our minds are cleared to take in new information and skills.

6. Magic is created when someone really sees you and gives you what you need.

Only a trainer standing in front of us can really gauge whether a learner is “getting it” or not, or how close they are to that moment of insight that will simply need a well-formed question to reach. Only a trainer standing in front of us can help us celebrate that moment when, as a learner, we feel the universe shift as that new idea, that gem of knowledge, settles itself into our psyche and we play with it, turning it this way and that, to see how we can use it.


Instructor-led, face-to-face training must never become obsolete. We have too much to lose.

Want to learn more about how to take your face-to-face training to the next level? Join me at the ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C. During my session Secret Trainer’s Business—How to Excite Learners Before a Workshop, we will explore how to create a simple welcome video and other pre-workshop engagement strategies.

About the Author

Tania Tytherleigh is a professional speaker and corporate trainer who leads the Master Trainers Institute Australia. She has presented at national and international conferences including CPA Congress (Melbourne), LearnX (Sydney), the New Zealand Human Resources Institute Annual Conference, the Australian Shared Services Association conferences and many more. Tania speaks on, and shares her expertise in, the art of connecting with others - be that in training rooms, in teams, with stakeholders or peers. She is known for her engaging style and her expertise in providing highly interactive, relevant and practical learning experiences that capture hearts and minds and create real behavior change.

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I don’t disagree with the value of face-to-face meeting, but you can learn and practice many soft skills either virtually or remotely using VR with AI, and get better results than traditional e-learning at lower opportunity cost than workshops which require travel:
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Great conversation going here! What are your thoughts on how to engage and ensure knowledge transfer and soft skills application beyond classroom training? FYI- Will Thalheimer has done great work on learning transfer...
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Well stated article and comments. I would simply add that not only the importance of the "light bulb" moments and peer to peer interaction, but correcting erroneous thinking or assumptions. This is especially true where there is deep institutional knowledge and some "we've always done it this way" mindset.
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