The Three Cornerstones to Writing Killer Facilitator Guides
When writing instruction for a facilitator, assume nothing. With that said, there are givens that we have to live with, so let’s list them and move on: Yes, someone will be offended that you wrote everything down because they know it already; Yes, someone else will say they need to deliver the content in their voice, their way – not yours. However, there is also the probability that: Yes, someone else will be tapped to teach the class who won’t have a clue what to do unless it’s all written down.
Writing a facilitator guide is about teaching, not about formatting or displaying subject matter expertise. This type of writing involves setting down logical, clear and complete instructions that another person can follow to teach something to a group of people. Your purpose is to write a guidebook that directs and supports the teaching of a set of learning objectives. However, due to not allotting enough development time, or letting the givens run the show, the job of the writing of a facilitator guide often reduces to being about reformatting the notes provided by a subject matter expert. But you are better than that, aren’t you?
Here are the three cornerstones to writing killer facilitator guides
1) Look at the topic you are going to teach from 50,000 feet.
Are you teaching a policy; or a process; or procedures, which will require explaining the theory or process they pertain to; or work instructions that detail specific steps? Having an overarching understanding of what you are about to write will help you determine the best way to structure and flow your document.
2) Create avatars for your facilitator and the participants.
Knowing your audiences informs how you will write. While you are writing for the facilitator, you are also providing content the facilitator will deliver to the participants. Are you writing for field practitioners who will help train colleagues or skilled facilitator who will lead a group of seasoned employees? Consider including your avatars in the getting started section of your facilitator guide to support the facilitator’s preparation process further.
3) Consistently structure and format your instruction using these five best practices.
Chunk your training program into modules and lessons, based on the learning objectives. Begin each module with the terminal objective and let the enabling objectives form the lessons for each module.
Start by telling the facilitator what you are going to teach, including a list of the equipment or materials needed, and briefly describing the intended outcome, listing specific tasks to be covered, and noting any prerequisites for the participants.
Call out any warnings or cautions upfront. If there is a possibility that equipment or people could get hurt, point this out to increase awareness and prepare participants to pay attention when the critical moments arise.
Provide context when needed. Depending on the subject you may need to introduce some theory or reference and discuss relevant background knowledge to set some parameters within which your actual instructions will apply.
Stay linear. Use structure and formatting to draw a roadmap the facilitator can follow and understand. If what you are teaching requires an ordered list, number or bullet it. If there is more than one way to do something and you are going to detail each one, start by saying that, then present each approach in full. If you are teaching a list of tasks that can be completed in any order, again, say so – and set down the most commonly followed order. If the steps require discussion to help build understanding, format and list each step in a consistent manner. Then add the points to be discussed below or beside each step, calling them out as such to ensure that you do not confuse or bury the steps in the discussion.
While there is more to talk about with regard to best practices when writing facilitator guides, start by using these three cornerstones as the foundation for your next project and you will be well on the way to writing killer facilitator guides.