Design and facilitation - is one more important than the other?

Written by Jo Cook on 19 July 2016

Hi all,

I wonder what you think about design and facilitation of learning solutions and if one is more important than the other?

I've got a piece going in the August TJ talking about this, as I've had some of my clients paying less for design than delivery.

Have you had that experience? If you are within a team/organisation, perhaps it's about time and other conversations that highlight the value (or lack) of the design element. 

What do you think it means about the value of designing training?

Jo Cook
Deputy Editor, TJ

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Submitted on 20 July, 2016 - 11:50

Hi Jo,

It's a good question and it comes up time and time again. When I was in the role (for a long time, more than 25 years) of the Purchaser (HR/Training Manager etc..) I never paid for design.  I paid for the total solution and the agreed results/outcomes/impacts.  This means that the Provider always quoted in terms of a daily facilitation rate but behind that is the design, development, delivery and follow-up.  As a Freelance Trainer and Coach now (since 2012), I never quote any other way and find that is works perfectly for me.  The daily rate for delivery includes everything and I think that is as it should be.  The key is to make sure that the daily rate is correct and reflects all the design, development and follow-up required to achieve the agreed outcomes.  So... for a tailored programme that requires meetings, assessments, design, delivery, follow-ups etc... the daily rate would be higher than a programme that requires only a little adjustment and no development work or needs analysis.  

I look forward to hearing the practice of other Providers or indeed, Purchasers.  My take on the balance is, the design is really paramount to the success of any training or coaching solution - needs analysis and agreement on outcomes are the first steps towards adding real value which will get transferred back into practice. It is really only with an open programme/public training course, where the person delivering the training has more of an impact because the course is set in advance.  In a public situation excellent delivery can incorporate the needs of the group/individual and if possible, where the facilitator is a real star, they will be flexible in content on the day itself to meet those needs.   

Anne Marie


Submitted on 22 July, 2016 - 12:22

I see design as the foundation of effective training and is essential, especially if it will be delivered multiple times by different trainers. I see this working in two ways. First, it reduces the preparation time for seasoned trainers. Second, novice trainers are provided the necessary information which will lead to confidence in delivery.

Steve Douglas




Submitted on 29 July, 2016 - 11:43

I charge for design and at the same rate as for delivery.  Typically, I am designing programmes that will be delivered by others as well as me (or instead of me) and it's my job as the designer to make it easy for the deliverers to succeed in creating a high impact learning experience.  When so much is now delivered virtually as well, design is critical - from alignment to adult learning principles through to quality of materials.


Submitted on 29 July, 2016 - 13:15

This is a really interesting thought piece for me as until I read this I typically split out all the elements of what I was doing for a piece of work in to my version of the training cycle:

Diagnostic - Design - Delivery - Did it work (evaluation - I like the alliteration!)

Typically I charged my design and evaluation (Kirkpatrick's Level 1 Reaction) at around 80% of my diagnostic and delivery rate on the basis of the first two are done in the comfort of my own office at home and the others are client facing.  The feedback I get from my clients is that they like the transparency of my subsequent invoicing.

A recent colleague of mine breaks down the costs similar to me but generally charges more for design than delivery (100% - 80%) on the basis of here view that the hard work is done in the critical and creative thinking of the design phase.  Most of my work is facilitation rather than training (another great debate to have actually) so I believe I have to apply my critical and creative thinking all the time to pick the most influential intervention.





Submitted on 5 August, 2016 - 09:17

It's a tricky one as often when I am in the client organisation there is a pressure to determine what you get for your money and therefore the trainers/facilitators can come under pressure with the design costs.  I am happy to pay for design costs to get bespoke, high quality products.  If I get that I'd pay well for it.  When it comes to me doing the designing and facilitating though I tend to undersell this part and it makes me realise I should be braver.  I am also with Jane in that my trainer notes allow the client to run the sessions themselves so they should be prepared to pay for that service as it will be more costs effective for them in the long run.


Submitted on 5 August, 2016 - 10:23

Hi Jo

It's an interesting question and, mainly as a client, I would always expect to pay less for design days than delivery days, often about 50%.  Strange when you think about it but there is something about travel, set up, longer days delivering.  Leaving the cost aside my mantra is always a bad facilitator can ruin a well designed course and a great facilitator can save a badly designed one.  So the person in the room is critical.  Is that worth more money?  I would say so.



Submitted on 6 August, 2016 - 11:33

Barry Johnson Important is an interesting word. What helps the participants learn is the criteria. I assume you are asking about Learning Events where it is not information pumping as in death by PowerPoint. My experience is Socratic method. Why? It has subject engagement and engages what the learners already understand, it causes them to think and it causes response and social engagement. I am biased of course as that is how i was trained 49 years ago (Yes I am past my sell by date) along with the it is not worth the time doing off-thejob training without practical application.


Submitted on 7 August, 2016 - 11:02

I believe that both the development and delivery should be at the similar rates.  A trainer is using different parts of their brain to achieve a coherent result.  I do agree with Chris that a good trainer can make a poor course design a success.  It proves that great trainers are worth their weight in gold.

Hilary Cooke

Submitted on 9 August, 2016 - 09:43

This is an interesting thread and lots of different ideas and ways to handle it. For me, I think the answer is "it depends" - because each case is specific and there are lots of variables to consider, such as:

What exactly does "design" look like and how is it defined? Is it designing a bespoke programme with original learner materials and a level of graphic design? Or are we talking about preparing to run something that is similar to something else? In which case, as practitioners we need to be really clear about what is "design" and what is "preparation". I agree with Anne Marie on this one and prefer to do an inclusive fee. I don't want my clients paying for me to get myself prepared to do my job on the day - and I push back pretty firmly on fellow trainers trying to pull that one on me! 

Who owns the final design - are you handing it over for in-house trainers to run or retaining the running yourself? In which case, how extensive are the running notes needed? As Jane points out, there is a lot of work involved in that and we are basically selling the rights and means to run it in future, so clients should be fair about that and recognise the value. I tend to charge more for this level of design than I would charge for delivery on its own.

How bespoke is the designed content? There is a difference to putting new logos and headers and footers on previously used work and completely drafting from scratch to fit a particular need. In which case, there is usually a fair bit of diagnostic work to do in order to design fit for purpose.

How big is the scope for what is being designed? Is it a one-off, or a global programme? That affects the return on investment dialogue somewhat.

How likely am I to use it again? For example I recently designed a workshop for a client on Creativity, Innovation and Solving Problems that Stay Solved. That was such fun to work on, I had a ball doing the research and then creating the content in creative ways - it was a one-off for them and I know jolly well that I am going to use it again. I should have paid them for being my guinea-pigs! 

Also to consider - what does "facilitation" really mean? Are we in danger of confusing facilitation with training delivery? My actual design time for facilitation is sometimes not very long - but I have spent many years (and £££s)  learning to do it properly, exactly so that I can work in the moment and respond to what the group needs might be. My facilitator crash helmet is very different from my trainer bobble hat or my presenter shiny top-hat.

And finally, the most important question of all - what is the required transfer? That puts the design discussion into its proper place with design is an input. I think we should be starting out with the end in mind and considering what outcome changes need to occur as a result, and then designing back from that point - in which case it is a seamless process involving diagnosis-design-delivery-evaluation-transfer and in that case, they all carry equal importance and therefore value. 

I know that, but I don't expect my client to know it necessarily, so would try and avoid pricing the elements separately or implying that they are optionals.

Thanks for the thread and all contributions.



Resli Costabell

Submitted on 19 August, 2016 - 15:47

I charge design and delivery at the same rate

In terms of time: yes, the delivery day is longer than a design day, and it’s more arduous (I rarely design while standing in heels all day).

On the other hand, a design day is longer because it’s not really a day. I’m currently designing a bespoke  two-day programme for a new client. I’ve spent about 2 ½ hours on calls with the client (lots of diagnostics, and understanding the context). I’ll spend 2 hours interviewing a few of the participants by phone, and on a conference call with Les Grandes Fromages. 2 hours’ researching the client company and sector, so I can understand the context better. 3 hours researching so I can ensure the content is up to date and matches their needs. 9 hours’ design and testing the design. 2 hours coming up with prework for participants. 2 ½  hours writing handouts (just high level handouts, not a tome). I’ll spend another 3 hours on travel to and from the training venue. That’s 26 hours. For which I’ll charge 2 days’ fees.

For a client and topic I’m already au fait with, it’ll take about 17.5 hours to design a two day training course. For which I’ll charge 2 days’ fees.

BTW, if it’s training I’ve run before, where it only requires a bit of tailoring, I don’t charge for design. Even though I’ll have spent an hour talking with the client. And as long as it’s in the UK, I never charge for my time the evening before the training, travelling the night before and staying over in a hotel.

As others have noted: design and delivery are two different but complimentary skills. A great trainer can often overcome bad design. But a bad trainer won’t make even the best design soar. (Hence my reluctance to write training notes for others to deliver.) The magic is in the magician, not in the wand.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that it seems odd to base payment on time spent. I don’t pay my accountant by the hour: I pay for a result.

Best wishes,
(C) Resli Costabell

PS: what Hilary said. Yes.


Submitted on 5 October, 2016 - 06:56

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it's nice topic to argu with anyone.

thank you

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ChrisScott (not verified)

Submitted on 8 October, 2016 - 14:08

Resli - I insist on standing in heels when I'm designing!! Haha... 

Seriously - it really depends on the client for me. Mostly I will budget the same for both depending if I am delivering or if an associate is delivering (depends on their rate), and then once I've reviewed all of those budgets, it's a simple reality check to make sure that I am confident the client is getting value for money. If i reduce a budget anywhere it will always be in the design as I have more flexibility there - ultimately it just comes down to an honest conversation with the client about time and being realistic about how long design takes to get right. 


Submitted on 3 March, 2017 - 13:39

I was a freelance consultant for five years and am now back in L&D management. I feel this is an issue that the consultant/supplier needs to work out behind the scenes. I am not interested in how a consultant works out how much thae are charging for the various parts of the process. I am looking for an effective solution that addresses and delivers the outcomes I want. I assume there will be some design as well as the delivery. What is missing from most proposals is a meaningful evaluation process other than for a one-off learning event. Robert O. Brinkerhoff and Charles Jennings have developed thinking about the way effective learning happens and they feel that this is when learning is focused on continued application in the work-place and not one-off events. So if you decide to show specific costs for the various parts of your creative process I would feel much better about paying for a solution showing a credible  evaluation than a lot of design work.