Article Category: Book Reviews

Book Review:
Telling Ain't Training

Telling Ain’t Training is an outstanding book for trainers and educators on how to develop effective training. Published by the American Society for Training & Development, this is the best book that I’ve found in this speaking niche.

Our Six Minutes survey last fall indicated that a third of our readers are teachers, instructors, professors, or corporate trainers. If you are one of them, or if you would like to start delivering effective training sessions, you should read this book.

This article is one of a series of public speaking book reviews from Six Minutes.

What’s Inside?

Telling Ain’t Training is packed with outstanding content from cover to cover.

The first two sections are primarily learning theory, while the following sections are more practical. This is an oversimplification, however, since the first two sections also contain dozens of practical examples while the later sections provide ample theoretical guidance. The most accurate description may be to say that theory and practicality are mixed throughout!

Here’s the table of contents:

  • Section 1: The Human Learner — What Research Tells Us
    • Chapter 1: Learning is Not Easy
    • Chapter 2: An Introduction to Some “Familiar Terms”
    • Chapter 3: The Human Learner
  • Section 2: What You Must Know To Be a Better Trainer
    • Chapter 4: Getting Learners to Learn
    • Chapter 5: Adult Learning Principles
    • Chapter 6: A Five-Step Model for Creating Terrific Training Sessions
    • Chapter 7: Getting Learners to Remember
  • Section 3: Applying What You Have Learned — Making Learning Research Work
    • Chapter 8: Training Approaches and a Cornucopia of Learning Activities
    • Chapter 9: Testing or Examining — What’s the Difference?
  • Section 4: Training-Learning with Technology and Beyond
    • Chapter 10: Training and Technology
    • Chapter 11: Learning with Technology: Making it Work
  • Section 5: Wrapping it Up
    • Chapter 12: Hit or Myth: What’s the Truth?
    • Chapter 13: Concluding Reflections on Telling Ain’t Training

I appreciate how the authors applied their own advice while writing the book. They illustrate many of their principles with:

  • in-chapter quizzes,
  • end-of-chapter reviews,
  • attention-grabbing anecdotes,
  • summary tables, diagrams, illustrations,
  • worksheets, and
  • much more…

Thus, the book is its own example of how to apply the knowledge you will gain from reading it. (In the same way that Garr Reynolds‘ writing style conveys a sense of calm that is consistent with his Presentation Zen brand, Telling Ain’t Training is itself a well-executed training resource.)

The Price

At the time of writing this review, you can get this book for only $35.08 from This is 10% off the list price.

What I Loved about Telling Ain’t Training

1. Learner-centric throughout.

I love the emphasis throughout the book on learning research and understanding how we learn. The authors devote much of the book to topics such as:

  • motivating learners
  • helping learners to remember what you teach them
  • understanding different types of learners, and how to adapt to their needs

I’ve argued in the past that all speeches and presentations should be focused on the audience’s needs (not the speaker’s), and training sessions are no exception. This book provides both the theoretical basis and practical advice for designing training sessions around the needs of the learner.

2. Dozens of practical tips.

I love books which explain theories to me (and this book certainly delivers learning theory). But it’s even better when the book shows me how to apply the theories easily and directly.

Telling Ain’t Training gives dozens of practical tips that you can use immediately in your classes or training sessions. (This is very timely for me, as I’m in the process of refreshing some courses, and designing new ones.) While these ideas are found throughout, the longest chapter in the book (Chapter 8) is almost exclusively focused on describing a number of activities which can be incorporated into a wide variety of courses. Additionally, these activities are classified by suggested settings:

  • Instructor-led large group
  • Instructor-led small group
  • Individual learning
  • Peer learning
  • On-the-job learning

I will reference this book often whenever I design training courses.

3. Detailed appendices point to additional resources.

A full 34 pages of endnotes provide background details and links to further resources, including dozens of books, academic papers, and other resources. This detailed bibliography accomplishes three things:

  1. It allows the main chapter text to be relatively clean and free of sidebar diversions.
  2. It offers a wealth of recommended reading, curated by experts in the field.
  3. It adds immensely to the authors’ credibility. The theories upon which they base their core arguments are not flimsy, made-up theories — they are based upon decades of learning research.

How could it be better?

I will reference this book often whenever I design training courses.

1. Instructors need feedback too.

There’s adequate coverage in the book about the importance of providing feedback to the learners. However, it’s important for trainers to receive feedback too, but this topic is not addressed in the book.

Perhaps this element was omitted because the book focuses on the learner, and evaluation of the trainer is considered secondary?

2. Wanted: supplementary materials.

There are so many great concepts, models, and practical tips in the book, and I would love to have even easier access to them after reading the book.

For example, I would love to see worksheets, 1-page summaries, “cheat sheets”, or other downloadable and printable resources made available to highlight the core principles discussed in the book. (I have created small wall posters to summarize the lessons in my PowerPoint design course, and my students love them!)

It’s possible that some of these are available in the supplementary book: Beyond Telling Ain’t Training Fieldbook . I don’t have a copy yet, so I’m merely speculating.

Listen to the Author

In this podcast from, one of the authors (Harold Stolovitch) discusses the core concepts in Telling Ain’t Training.

What Others Think

Ratings on are very high: 29 out of 37 reviewers give it 5 out of 5 stars.

29 out of 37 people give it 5 out of 5 stars

Julie Wilson:

This learner-centered book is a must-read for anyone designing and delivering training whether a novice or experienced trainer or developer.

Marie Wallace:

The authors are workplace learning and performance consultants and the co-editors of several other books. They share a common passion–“developing people” which comes through clearly in the book.

Mathieu Marechal:

Really interesting and very practical, I bought it because my company is launching a training programme and it enabled me to get good ideas on how to actually train our employees.


I wish all trainers and educators would read Telling Ain’t Training. Reading this book is a fabulous investment.

This book has helped me design my training modules, and I believe it will help you too, whether you are just getting started or whether you’ve been training others for decades.

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Telling Ain't Training by Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps Andrew Dlugan 4 February 10, 2013 Fantastic resource for trainers with a wealth of theoretical and practical advice. Published by the American Society for Training and Development, this is a best-seller among training professionals.

This article is one of a series of public speaking book reviews featured on Six Minutes.
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Comments icon6 Comments

  1. Pradeep says:

    Relevant, useful and timely review. I will be buying this book.

  2. Mary Peters says:

    Andrea – great review of “Telling Ain’t Training” – I am listening to the podcast which is great. You may also want to check out Sharon Bowman’s books on adult learning – practical, easy to do and they work!

  3. Pradeep,
    This book sounds like a great resource to make training more like actual teaching, and less like lecturing. My experience at work and in toastmaster contexts has always been the more interactive the workshop the better. I think I’ll be buying this one.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the fact that trainers need feedback too. I recently went to some training that wasn’t all that great – telling not training. I gave extensive feedback, in fact, I even wrote an article on my blog about it. I’ve since been to training with the same people – the transformation was amazing to behold. Perhaps they bought this volume?

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Perhaps they did.

      I know that my training courses will be better after reading this book.

  4. Ravi Moosad says:

    I’m a wannabe corporate trainer, so definitely will grab a copy. Thanks a ton for the review.

  5. Ryan Avery says:

    Great review Andrew. Thank you for doing this for us. I was in need of a new book on training and this will be one I pick up. Hope you are doing well.

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