How to Use a Lesson Plan and Guarantee Training Success (free template included)

Even storm troopers use a lesson plan template

If you are familiar with teaching principles at all, then you might have come across a lesson plan template (or session plan) in the past. In really simple terms, these are used to assist a teacher deliver a training course in an organised way without missing out on any of the really important bits.

If you haven’t seen one before, this might sound rather dull, just another checklist that gets in the way of you actually getting something done. But if used properly a lesson plan can provide you with a training framework that enables you to deliver well thought out content every time you use it.

This approach is really useful for all educators, whether you are teaching school kids, or trying to deliver a specific message online to a diverse audience. It also applies to online content creators, because it not only helps you develop an outline, but also helps you dig a lot deeper into your topic.

Today I’m going to cover the basics of a lesson plan and try to convince you to use one every time you create content – whether it is formal training or just a ‘how to’ article. (I’m even going to give you a free lesson plan template that you can use right away).

What goes into a lesson plan?

There are a number of elements that go into a lesson plan and they can vary a little depending on the type of content that you are looking to develop. The following list should cover most bases, but feel free to suggest additions in the comments section.

1.    Course summary

A concise summary of your course, stating what it will achieve and why people need it is a perfect place to start. If you can nail this, then you not only have something that will help keep you on track through the development phase, but also something that can be used to get the attention of your target audience.

It can really help to incorporate an attention grabbing title too, so give this the time it needs to develop and implement some proven copywriting tactics to help things along. Copy Hackers have some great free resources that you might like to investigate.

2.    Target audience

Fact: not everyone is going to want, or possibly even like your chosen topic. Actually, they might want it, but just not the way you deliver it (sorry). That’s okay though, channel your feelings of rejection and put it to good use by describing the exact people that your training is for.

Think about the type of people that you are pitching your course at, what is their skill level? (beginner, intermediate, advanced), what do they like/need and why is this training content important to them?

Remember that adult learners are very discerning and need to be able to see an immediate benefit, make sure you can give them one (preferably more). If you are having trouble thinking about benefits, you can nail this when developing your learning outcomes in point 4.

3.    Format and duration

A lot of people start with a pre-determined course duration and then try to stuff all of their content into that space. This could work for you, but my personal preference is to let my content dictate the final duration of my courses.

You might like to decide right now, or come back to the duration of your course later. Either way the goal for your lesson plan template is to indicate the level of commitment required by the participant in terms of minutes / hours / days / weeks (i.e. approximately 6 hours total, or 2 hours per week for 3 weeks etc.).

The format of your course is closely linked to the duration and relates to the way you plan to offer your training content. It could be in a classroom setting (through the use of an online webinar event), using hosted video or audio, learner workbooks (electronic or print), or via a structured eLearning platform like Udemy.

You can be as creative as you like with the format of your training by mixing different delivery types to suit the outcome that you are trying to achieve, and keep things interesting for your audience at the same time.

4.    Learning outcomes

This is an area that lets a lot of great training courses down. Many aren’t developed with specific learning outcomes (or learning objectives), so the end result is often an obscure takeaway message. This will leave you with an unsatisfied audience and a lot more questions to answer.

Learning outcomes are actually really easy to write, they need to be specific and focus on the participant instead of the teacher. The best way to approach them is to think in terms of what your learner should be able to do at the end of the training.

 Consider the following:

In this article I will teach you how to use a lesson plan.


By the end of this article, you will be able to design a customised lesson plan for a training course that leaves your audience raving to all their friends.

It isn’t too hard to see which one works better.

Your course could have one, or more learning outcomes. Think about what you want your audience to be able to do, how you want them to do it and how well it should be done. Make sure you use action words (verbs) as descriptors to demonstrate this to the best of your ability.

5.    Training resources

This one is for you, or the person that develops and delivers the course. It should list any resources that you will need in order to deliver the course (i.e. reference materials, workbooks that need to be made ahead of time, online or other electronic resources like video or audio, props or other tools that help you better demonstrate a concept).

Try and give this area plenty of thought, your resources can really make a big difference to the quality of a training course (I’ll cover this in a lot more detail in an upcoming article – hint: subscribe to get emails about any new content here at Training Outcomes).

6.    Pre-work

Sometimes it is necessary to establish a baseline of knowledge prior to delivering your course, so that everyone is at a similar level and more time can be devoted to achieving your desired learning outcomes.

List any pre-reading or review of other reference materials that participants should do prior to undertaking your course. This might also include reviewing websites, watching online videos, or completing a survey with information that is used during the course.

7.    Participant requirements

Depending on the type of training course you are planning to offer, this may or may not be necessary. Consider any materials, equipment, software or other resources that participants will require in order to undertake your training course and list each.

If these are items that your audience will need to purchase, you might like to put in some leg work and make a list of all the best deals for them, particularly if there are some cheaper alternatives that work just as well.

Bring it all together in an easy to follow structure

Now that you have your overall summary, you can use key pieces to flesh out the delivery of your course.

Against each of your learning outcomes, do the following:

  • List the steps involved in achieving them (check out my article about How to Create a Killer Online Training Course to learn more about developing your steps).
  • Indicate the delivery format that you intend to use in order to best communicate your message.
  • List any of the resources that you have already identified that will be required at this point to deliver your training.

You should now have a framework that will guide the development of your training course and keep you on track every step of the way. Make sure your learning outcomes are obvious throughout the training and reinforce key concepts to help your learners. Check out my article on The Secret to Developing Content that Appeals to Everyone for a good approach to writing your content.

Your FREE lesson plan template

I did promise you a free lesson plan template to help make this process easier and it is yours to have right now. There is a small catch (you knew there would be didn’t you?) it involves ‘paying with a tweet’ which you can do by clicking the button below.

Once you do, you will get the template as a handy word document download and you can do with it as you please.

This is just a nice way to say thanks and also tell others about this resource at the same time. If you really don’t want to, or you aren’t on Twitter or Facebook you can subscribe at the bottom of this article to receive free updates and have a link to the lesson plan sent straight to your inbox at the same time (you can even unsubscribe right after if you don’t want to hear from me).

Make sure to let me know if you have anything to add and if you plan to use it.

Image by Kalexanderson

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8 thoughtful comments on How to Use a Lesson Plan and Guarantee Training Success (free template included)

  1. Brian McLane #

    Udemy is now taking 50% of their instructors’ income. What other sites can you recommend?

    • Hey Brian,

      I think the best thing to do is to use Udemy as a form of free advertising (in fact you still get paid if you don’t want to offer a free course) to showcase your expertise.

      Then set up your own membership site with all the good stuff there. You have full control and can do what you like.

      Let me know if you need some help.

  2. Chery #

    Hello Shuan, your site is wonderful. I am a senior (OLD) Manager and I am being charged with creating a presentation about a certain organization and I have been provided study guides only.

    Staff are in there thirty’s I am not their role model/mentor. Cant relate to me; I guess.

    Any further recommedations. I am not the SME. Trying to create a training plan after the first training already…HELP

    • Hey Chery,

      Thanks for your kind words.

      It can be tough in the position you are in, but it will come together. I think the most important thing to do first is to flip your feelings.

      Think about how you can relate to them (what they need and want), then step it out in small chunks to avoid overload.

      When delivering training about an organization I like to think in terms of who we are, what we do and how we do it.

      Feel free to send me some more details in an email using the contact page and we can work through it.


  3. Hi
    I just paid with a tweet but can’t seem to find the downloaded lesson plan

    • Shaun #

      Hey Ann,

      Shoot me an email via the contact page and I’ll send it right over to you.



  4. awesome .. :) SOUNDS GREAT………….. <3


  1. Developing a Learner Profile; How to Know Exactly What People Want | Training Outcomes - November 13, 2014

    […] tweet will let you give away electronic resources for the cost of a tweet, like I’ve done with my training plan template. This will help you get more social shares, but if you also add your Twitter handle to the auto […]

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