Simplify Your Life with an All-In-One Training Document

Gus Prestera reveals how Johnson & Johnson saved hours in updating instructor-led-training materials. Learn how to save time on presentations.

Published on 19 April, 2016 | Last modified on 10 May, 2023
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By Gus Prestera, Talent and Organizational Development Consultant

If you run lots of workshops and webinars, here’s a deceptively simple technique for reducing the file clutter, production time, and maintenance costs of producing and maintaining world-class instructor-led-training documents.

Grace used to be a happy-go-lucky person; that is before she got stuck updating a three-day instructor-led training (ILT) program. Before being sucked into this administrative quicksand, she actually enjoyed the instructional design.  After a week of sifting through piles of marked-up edits and applying them to the slides, participant workbook, leader guide, and other documents associated with the course, the joy drained from her tired eyes.  

The changes themselves are not that time-consuming, but cascading the changes down through all of the files is maddening.  She edits a slide, then needs to edit the leader guide document to reflect that change, and then the participant workbook, and then she needs to copy and paste the revised slide into the documents as a thumbnail.  Ugh!  One little change has her shifting back and forth among multiple documents, trying to keep straight what she still needs to edit.  Like the water-dripping torture technique, it’s driving her crazy.  

After a week of making the same edits in different documents and trying to keep it all straight, Grace is ready to submit her revised training documents for review.  A week later, her subject matter expert comes back with more change requests and the process starts all over again.  Drip…drip…drip.

If Grace’s story sounds familiar, you’ll be happy to know that it doesn’t need to be like this.

Saving Grace!  

Over the last 15 years, my team and I have produced hundreds of in-person and virtual ILT programs. Since we would rather spend our time designing than being stuck in the minutiae, we’ve made it a mission to find the most efficient way to build and maintain a set of ILT materials.  After many experiments—most too horrifying to share with you—I’m ready to unveil our simple technique.  

We’ve found that the most effective way is to build all of our ILT materials directly in a single Microsoft PowerPoint file.  That’s right, we build our slides, participant workbook, leader guide, and supplemental training documents all in one PowerPoint file, and it looks “amaze-balls,” as my daughter likes to say.

To see a brief demonstration of what the training document guides look like, check out the YouTube video below.

How to Use One Master File to Save You Time

We start by building a leader guide template in the Notes Master.  The Notes Master is a little-known and under-utilized feature within PowerPoint that can enable you to create a beautiful layout for your leader guide.  Once we’ve built the template, we build out our slides and add in our talking points, leader instructions, timing estimates, etc.  

What about the participant workbook?  Here’s where we really get sneaky.  The participants will get a subset of the leader guide, typically the slide with the talking points section.  The other parts—the elements that are just for the leader guide—we cover up with a white box and make that a blank student notes area.  

PowerPoint’s notes view will already have a thumbnail of the screen built into it, so we never need to update slide thumbnails in our participant workbooks or leader guides.  The talking points in the leader guide and participant workbook are the same, so we only update them once.  We are working with just one file for any given set of content, so there’s no clutter.  Once we’re finished, we output a PDF for the leader guide and a PDF for the participant workbook.

To see a demonstration of how we create the leader guide template, check out the following YouTube video.

How One Training Document Saves You Time

This technique involves a tool that most instructional designers already use in the ILT development process, so the learning curve is not too steep and there’s no additional cost to purchase specialized leader guide software (that doesn’t work very well anyway).  

Using the all-in-one training document approach, we’ve reduced production time by 40%, revision cycle times by 150%, and overall production and revision work hours (effort) by 120%.  In other words, we’ve chopped our time and costs in half (at a minimum).  We’ve reinvested some of that time and effort into producing higher-quality graphics, case studies, videos, and activities…which add a great deal of instructional value to the programs we produce.  

When it comes to ongoing maintenance, the difference is even more profound.  If a round of updates might have taken us three days to make previously, we’re now able to make those same edits in about half a day.  As Donald and Bernie like to say, that’s HUUUGE!

Of course, it’s not just my team that benefits.  After we do the initial build of the program, our clients—including the fine folks at AIG, Vertex, Main Line Health, SCTE, Ballard Spahr, and BMS—are then able to take over the maintenance of their own programs. They’re happier because the process of making edits is so much faster and easier.  

We took it a step further with Johnson & Johnson’s global leadership development curriculum by building for them a whole collection of slide and leader guide templates that their internal and external instructional designers use to build new programs in a consistent manner.

At SCTE, we took it even further by creating a leader guide template that could also double as an eLearning storyboard. I call it “Frankenboard.”  

The bottom line is that if you want to streamline the production and maintenance of your ILT programs, you need not go further than exploit some additional capabilities within PowerPoint.  Between that and your own imagination, the sky’s the limit to what training documents you can create there.

After watching the videos, open PowerPoint and give it a try.  It really will change the way you look at ILT production.  If you get stuck and need some assistance, please contact me.

For over 20 years, Gus Prestera has been helping businesses improve the capabilities and performance of workers and their leaders. He holds his Ph.D. in Instructional Systems, an MBA, and a BS in Marketing.  As a principal of Prestera FX, a talent development consulting firm, Gus helps organizations architect, build, implement, and evaluate learning ecosystems that support onboarding, competency-based training & certification, performance improvement, professional development, and leadership development.

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