Better learning briefs: The 7 questions to answer before you create your training course

When you know your team needs training, it’s tempting to book in a date and start working on the slides and materials.  But wait!  There are 7 important questions you need to answer before you get started.

Question 1: Who are your learners?

We are not not just talking about the number of people or their job titles – although you do need to know those things too.  But more than that, what are they like?  What kinds of people are they?  What experience do they already have?  Are there any cultural or accessibility considerations?  Do we understand the mindset they will bring to the training?  And if this is different across the learners, who are the different groups?  Understanding your learners will help you deliver better learning.

Question 2: Who are your stakeholders?

Who else, other than you, wants this training to happen, and why?  Perhaps your boss or your client has asked you to set it up.  Why do they want it, what is the benefit to them?  Is there anyone who doesn’t want this training or is concerned about it?  How can you address these concerns?  It is super important to understand the stakeholders who will influence or judge the training before you get started.

Question 3: What is the “From” and “To”?

Before we get into setting the training date and preparing slides, take a step back and consider where your learners are, and where you want them to be.   What do they believe, or do, or feel now, and what do you want them to believe, or do, or feel after the training?  Defining this will help you clarify the learning objectives – and if you think that different team members are starting at different places, or even needing to end in different places, perhaps they need different learning journeys?  If you don’t know where your learners are starting from it’s important to find out first.

Question 4: How will you measure success?

How will you even know if your team training is successful?  What evidence do you need?  These days it’s not enough to tick off the number of people who have been on a course, we need to make sure it’s had a positive impact back in the day job.  Could it be that people are able to do something that they weren’t able to do before.  Or perhaps they have used a new approach within 2 weeks of the training?  Think about how you will measure success before the project starts, in case you need to benchmark it before and afterwards.

Question 5: What are your key messages?

Before we get into the full detail of writing the training, start with the key messages first.  We like to use the 30/3/30 method.  If you had just 30 seconds to summarise the learning message what is it in 1 sentence?  If you had to make a 3 minute advert summarising the training what would your script be?  If you had 30 minutes to present the training, what would your main points be?  Breaking down the key messages in this way before getting started on the details means you are identifying the essentials first.

Question 6: What is your story?

Once you have the key messages, stop – don’t prepare the slides and materials yet!  It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking lots of different slides from old presentations and combining them for your next training – but this risks not having a clear story for your learners.  A good story compels people to listen from the start.  When it comes to training, we need to hook people in and motivate them to listen and learn.  Then we need to give them the knowledge they need in a memorable way.  Finally, make clear how they will be supported or rewarded for applying the learning.  A great test is, can you write out the narrative or the script for the training in a word document?  If your written story reads well and makes sense without any slides, it is more likely to be compelling and meaningful to the learners when you do turn it into great visual materials.  If you have lots of different stakeholders it is crucial to align on this narrative first, before creating any materials.

Question 7:  How does this fit in with other learning?

So you’re almost ready to book the training date and create your materials – the last question to answer is what else are your learners learning?  People already have access to a lot of training resources.  How does your training fit with the other courses they are doing?  Being aware of what else your people are doing will help to make your training relevant, and avoid duplication or even confusion from different courses.

So, when you’re creating a new training course – before you book the dates and write the slides, make sure you answer these 7 questions first.  The time you take to do this will save you time later, and it will make your training far more successful too!