Recognize this scenario? Within minutes of arriving at a training session, you know it was a mistake to attend. Not because the trainers are unqualified or the topic is wrong--it's simply not what you needed or expected. Disappointed, you leave early, sorry to have wasted your time and energy.

Let's explore this situation. The ramifications may surprise you.

Whose Goals Are You Promoting? Companies invest carefully in training. Goal-setting typically includes items such as educating end users, communicating a vision, or improving sales.

Good goals? Yes, for your company. But these are not reasons people choose to attend training events. Professionals spend their time (and money) for more personal reasons, like advancing their careers, meeting quotas, beating the competition, or being on the leading edge. Although important, your company's goals may not be compelling to the potential trainee.

Before trainees walk or click into an event, they must make a personal decision to participate. They do so because a unique and appealing offer has been communicated through an invitation or brochure. Meaningful words jump out: nontechnical, technical, interactive, hands-on, advanced skills. Herein lies the problem. Unless the "promise" is clear, there is a big gap between what the sponsors mean and how the audience interprets those words.

Define the Promise The promise is the value of the training to the target audience. Think of it as the bridge between your goals and the trainee's goals. For example, if your company's goal is to educate end users, the promise may be to deliver the most up-to-date, concentrated information attendees will find anywhere.

Defining the promise is challenging, because it forces you to abandon your assumptions and "think from the seats." This is a deliberate, thoughtful step that helps you to see your event from the trainee's point of view. Note: If you have more than one target audience, there should be a specific promise and value for each, and these must be carefully balanced.

List each goal. Note all the driving reasons a prospect might choose to attend. Ask your team to contribute their goals as well. Then discuss and prioritize the goals. Match as many of your goals to the audience's high priorities as possible.

Draft the promise. For example, if your most important goal is to increase the sales force's productivity, your promise to account managers may be that they will learn new, advanced technologies and methodologies to help them exceed quota.

Focus on the top priorities and promises as you draft the agenda. There is always pressure to include certain corporate items, like the history of your technology and the biography of your founder. Resist these pressures. Rarely is this information of personal value to a trainee. (If you must include a commercial, make sure it is very short or at the very end of the agenda.)

Test Your Training Once you have a prototype, invite third parties, such as training and event professionals or representatives of each target audience, to critique it. Ask at least these three questions: What would make you decide to attend (or not)? What would you expect to experience if you participated? What would make it of greater value? The results may surprise you. They may even send you looking for third-party speakers or designing a new skills certification.

Getting the right people into the training session is important. But if you want to keep them there, you need to think from the seats.