Including the Participant Guide in your Facilitator Guide - Good Idea or Bad?

My heart sinks every time someone tells me they always do a side-by-side setup with exact replicas of each page of their participant guide within their facilitator guide. So, I guess you know where I stand on whether or not this is a good idea.

Here are a few reasons why including the Participant Guide in your Facilitator Guide is not the best idea.



A facilitator guide will contain more text than a participant guide, in the form of instructional guidance for the facilitator. This is true even when compared to the most thorough participant guide. The sheer volume of facilitator guide content makes it impractical to have a side-by-side setup with the facilitator guide on one page and the participant guide on the facing page. 


Notes & Images

A participant guide will contain plenty of capture space for note-taking, as well a larger renditions of images, charts, graphs, etc. Replicating large images and note capture space within a facilitator guide is a waste of space.


Not Necessary

A facilitator who is using a facilitator guide can deliver the class without seeing an exact replica of the participant guide. Detailed guidance on flow and content is already in the facilitator guide.

Here are 3 ways to integrate references to the participant guide within your facilitator guide that will assist your facilitator & support a solid instructional flow.



Whenever the participant guide is needed, direct the facilitator to reference it.



Include enough information about the participant guide page(s) referenced for the facilitator to understand what the participants will be doing with those pages.


Page Numbers

Include participant guide page number references so that the facilitator can look at the specific page in his or her copy of the participant guide if desired.

While there is a need for both a facilitator guide and a participant guide, they serve different purposes. Recognizing this will help you create the best materials for both audiences, ensuring the most successful outcomes for everyone.


The 3 C's of Effective Training Materials

Effective training materials are
always driven by the 3 C's.
Clear, Concise, Complete.

Obvious as they seem, the 3 C's are not easy to achieve. 

Being clear requires:

  • starting from a reasonable set of assumptions about your audience
  • knowing what you are talking about
  • being able to write

Being concise requires:

  • having a point and being able to get to it quickly
  • understanding the key points of your message
  • leaving out the extra stuff

Being complete requires:

  • mastery of the subject matter
  •  expressing all of the necessary information
  • putting the information in context within the overall documentation

I work with subject matter experts, instructional designers, trainers - let's sum it up by saying Learning and Development professionals - from all over the globe and from every type of business and organization. And yet, not a day goes by that I don't see "Explain XYZ" with no further detail, or "Ask: What about XYZ?" with no guidance on what to listen for and how to handle it if you don't hear what you are listening for.

Which brings me back to the 3 C's. I suggest that they are worth aspiring to.

Here are a few tips for being
better at the 3 C's.

Ask yourself, am I being clear?

  • read what you have written from your set of assumptions about your audience
  • make sure you can you logically follow the train of thought
  • if what you are reading might not make sense, then it is not clear

Ask yourself, am I being concise?

  • start with your main point
  • your key points (about your main point) should be clear
  • do another edit and remove more extra stuff (create an appendix and put the extra stuff in there if it's "good to know")

Ask yourself, am I being complete?

  • have (another) subject matter expert review your content
  • read your document from start to finish and edit as needed
  • work with your information from your set of assumptions about your audience to help identify what's missing or out of order

For those of you who know me, you know I'll never be accused of being a 3 C's role model. But, it's something I aspire to. And after reading this I hope I've inspired you to aspire too.



Which comes first, the facilitator guide or the participant guide?

There are two distinct schools of thought on this subject. I am squarely in the "facilitator guide first" camp. Because from a well constructed facilitator guide you can generate a participant guide with minimal additional work. A good facilitator guide will follow the flow of the class, step-by-step. A good participant guide will too, but the instructional flow won't be obvious if you write the participant guide first. 

So, start with the facilitator guide and follow these simple tips:

1. Assume
Assume the facilitator does not know what you know.

2. Organize
Organize your facilitator guide to follow the logical flow of preparing for and then delivering the class.

3. Learning Objectives
Use your terminal and enabling learning objectives to set up your modules and lessons (topics and sub-topics).

4. Start
Start each module with a page that lists the module's goal, time allotment, a brief description of what the facilitator will be doing, and the short list of materials needed to run just this chunk of the class.

5. Time & Goal
Start each lesson with it's time allotment and goal. 

6. Follow
As you write, follow the logical flow of the class.

7. Identify
Clearly write out exactly what the facilitator needs to say and do. Include all of the necessary information. For instance, if you direct the facilitator to explain something, include either a script or the key points of what you expect the explanation to cover.

8. Timing
Include timing for significant actions within a lesson, like running a group activity.

9. Voice
Write in the same voice throughout the guide, keeping in mind that you are talking to the facilitator.

10. Be Consistent
Keep your formatting consistent and use a page layout that is easy to follow. 

11. Extract
Once your facilitator guide is complete, extract the content you need to build a participant guide.

12. Add References
Once both guidebooks are built, add participant guide page number references into the facilitator guide.

Writing a thorough facilitator guide will help to ensure a consistent delivery, no matter who the facilitator is. Even if you have a group of facilitators who are experienced and well versed in the subject matter being taught, consider scripting out exactly what is to be said every step of the way. To help overcome objections from those experienced facilitators (who will not be there forever) follow each script with it's key points.

So your flow will be:

  • Say This: Script
  • Key Points: The essence of what needs to be communicated

If you follow these guidelines there will be one more benefit, for you. You will do better work and people will notice. And who doesn't like to shine now and then?



What I Learned from Irma

I've lived and worked in Southwest Florida since August of 1996. So I've been through every hurricane that's passed over Florida since then - including Charlie and Wilma, which were particularly devastating to the Gulf coast. So you'd think I would have been prepared for Irma, but it turns out I wasn't. Here's what Irma's taught me:

1. Know your priorities.

2. Have at least 3 solid plans for emergencies.

3. Be prepared to implement each plan.

Point #3 is the one that I fell down on, because I didn't believe I'd need to use my OMG Plan C. In talking with neighbors and friends, it turns out I'm not alone. Not having the OMG plan ready to implement resulted in additional stress and placed my family and most of the people I know in additional danger. All because we didn't believe the unthinkable could happen. 

So, while I can't tell you specially what to do for your unique situation, I have a few general suggestions:

1. Gather every emergency supply you can think of, meaning items that relate to survival and items that will help comfort you in a time of distress.

2. Make sure these items are portable.

3. Store them in one spot, in easy to grab waterproof containers that are clearly labelled.

4. Include copies of insurance policies, other important papers and a list of important phone numbers (because your cell phone might not be working).

Also include a map of your state. I know we all use our phones or the GPS in our vehicles, just humor me.

5. Make sure that you can easily access your emergency supplies in the dark, and alone, and make sure they will fit in your vehicle.

6. As soon as you realize danger in possible, withdraw as much cash as you can. The minute you start to get the feeling that you might need to implement your OMG plan, just do it. Don't wait. 

I hope that you will never need to implement your OMG plan, but I'll feel better knowing that you have one.



Great Circle Learning's Richard Michaels Awarded a 2017-2018 Microsoft MVP

We are excited to announce that our Chief Product Architect, Richard Michaels, has been selected as a 2017-2018 Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP).  Microsft awards the MVP to exceptional technical community leaders who share their remarkable passion, real-world knowledge, and technical expertise with others through demonstration of exemplary commitment. This is the 5th year in a row that Richard has been awarded an MVP! Congratulations to Richard, everyone at Great Circle Learning is extremely proud of your work and involvement with the community. 

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Richard Michaels, Microsoft MVP and Work Process Automation Expert

There never is enough time to get our work done and we stress over it, but it doesn't have to be that way. Often we are the cause of the problem... to our project and to ourselves. This session provides tips, techniques, demonstrations and even free software that can help. You'll learn how to:

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