In this blog post, I’m going to walk you through the mindset and method of creating beneficial training and reference materials for new resources…even if you’re new, too! There have been multiple instances in my career where I’ve been tasked with creating training, reference, and promotional materials for others. Depending on the situation, the audience has ranged from novice to strongly technical. This material has taken the form of text-heavy Word documents, picture-filled PowerPoints, screen-recorded tutorials, and even blog posts. Despite the different formats and ultimate consumers, one thing has remained the same: The material must be useful for the intended audience. If you’ve been asked to create training and reference documentation for use by new resources, it can seem like a daunting task. After all, how are you supposed to know what to include? Well, keep reading to find out.
- Anticipate questions – If you’re still relatively new to a role or technology, turn a potential disadvantage into an advantage. You know all those random questions rattling around in your head that you think are just too ridiculous to ask? Once you figure out the answers, find some way to pre-emptively answer those questions in the training and reference material. I can pretty much guarantee that others will have the same questions you did and will appreciate having the answers to those questions. If you’ve been around a while, think back to the questions you had and pitfalls you experienced when you were still new and include them in your training material!
- Be visual – Pictures, charts, diagrams, screenshots. Anything visual beyond just plain text on a plain background can work wonders in conveying a message or reinforcing a point. As the saying goes – a picture is worth a thousand words. These are also great for getting the intended audience past any potential sticking points or hurdles. These kinds of visuals also break up the monotony of reading endless paragraphs of blank text on a page and will engage the intended audience far more.
- Make a training video – This one can be tough, but it can also be extremely effective. Most of the training and reference videos I’ve made throughout my career have involved recording my computer screen and voice. At the same time, I walk the audience through whatever technology or product I’m presenting for them. While I didn’t appear in these videos, my voice I heard and my cursor and screen movements I watched being replayed. While I’ve come a long way in refining these presentation skills and getting more comfortable with myself, sure, I still get self-conscious sometimes. There’s a good chance you will, too. That’s part of being human. Just accept that you’re going to trip up a few times and unless you’re an editing whiz, you’re not going to get it all just right on the first take. However, the benefits of the human touch imparted in a video are profound.
- Own your material – Well, depending on your project, you may not technically be the “owner” of the material you produce; however, you should own it in the sense that you have full command of and speak authoritatively on the subject. You’ve been put in charge of creating content that will help others. So, help them! Also, be prepared to update your material as technologies and methodologies change.
- Ask for feedback – From resources who are just getting their feet wet with the technologies and processes covered in your training and reference material, as well as from those more seasoned professionals. Both will almost certainly have useful feedback and suggestions.
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In this blog post, I’ve walked you through the mindset and method of creating instrumental training and reference material for new resources. Hopefully, you’ve learned a few things and have a few more tools added to your tool belt as you progress through your career. We all started out as newbies, and the lessons you learned early on can pave the way for those who follow.
Stay tuned for future blog posts and examples related to the topics covered here and more!