RETHINK: Training Materials as In-the-Moment Job Aids

In our work, we train and coach a lot of corporate trainers and subject matter experts (SMEs) to be more effective in the training room. Time and again we see them struggle with PowerPoint slides and facilitation guides.

We see similar struggles when they’re using off-the-shelf training as well as when the training has been designed specifically for them. The reason for this is because these training tools, the facilitator guide and slides, have not been prepared in such a way that will benefit the trainer while they’re delivering the training.

The Facilitation Guide Serves Two Purposes
When putting a facilitation guide together for trainers and SMEs to use, it’s important to recognize that they will use the guide for two very different purposes.

First, they’ll use it to prepare themselves to deliver the material. This means that the guide needs to be comprehensive enough so that the SME understands (1) what is to be learned, (2) why the class is designed the way it is, and (3) how content should be delivered. This requires detail and nuance, but not a script. If the training is to be delivered multiple times, especially if they take place over a period of time, it also needs to include enough detail to jog memories.

Second, the guide needs to serve as an in-the-moment job aid.  It’s unrealistic to assume that trainers and SMEs can deliver training without looking at notes from time to time. Therefore, the facilitation guide needs to be clear and its information easily accessible in the moment. This requires recognizable icons, short bullets, consistent layout, and so on.

Facilitator guides need to be laid out and organized to support both purposes. Easier said than done, but necessary if it is going to be useful to the person using it.

Presentation Slides Also Serve Two Purposes
When designing slides or other types of visuals for trainers to use during the training, keep in mind that, like the facilitator guide, slides also have two functions. They are there for the learners and they are there for the trainer. This goes against traditional thinking. But we believe that if a slide doesn’t support the trainer in their moment of need, it’s a lousy visual aid.

Here are common missteps that we see, followed by recommendations.

  • Sometimes a slide’s title is not an accurate reflection of what the slide shows or means. A good slide title should spark the right thoughts for the trainer in the moment of delivery.
  • Sometimes slides are too wordy, making it difficult to read and talk about. Bullet points should always be easily readable and start with the same part of speech (verb, noun, adjective).
  • Conversely, sometimes slides don’t have enough words. This often happens when the slide displays a metaphorical image without context or explanation (think Zen stones showing up out of nowhere). We recommend adding text to images. You may not win any design awards, but that’s not the point.
  • Sometimes information is organized in a way that doesn’t make sense to the trainer. For example, the Instructional Designer may have listed items alphabetically, when from the trainers’ perspective, they should be arranged chronologically. If the trainer stumbles in situations such as this, don’t fight them. Reorder the information and save your arguments for when it matters.

As you put together the content of the training, remember the dual role both facilitator guides and slides play in training delivery and design accordingly.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

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