As a Business Advisor, I used to spend a good chunk of my time teaching various courses (and speaking at conferences in Europe and the US).
I no longer have the time to speak regularly, which is why I’ve shifted to my blog, LinkedIn, Quora, and other virtual venues serving a broader group of people who can benefit from my content.
My Training Preparation Checklist
Since I used to give regular classes on some topics, I had to polish my materials on a regular basis by doing research, testing, and exploration (to keep them up to date).
Whenever a new inquiry comes in, here’s what my preparation process looks like.
There is a variety of new technologies to be covered and I have to prepare materials from scratch for them after receiving a company request.
What comes next are:
- Meetings with the client, various managers, and members of the target auditory (trainees)
- Precisely calculating the number of hours needed
- A breakdown per topic or the main chapters of a training course
- Assessing the group’s level of knowledge in the field (gauging complexity and introduction to the area of study)
- Accounting for the ratio between theory and exercises needed (unless it is a seminar-based course with no labs)
Forming the Right Training Group
Targeting and gathering the right training group is crucial.
While testing the waters, I do send some quiz-based forms which cover subjective evaluations from the trainees as well as technical questions helping me to figure out their level. I take an average of these results and their own personal marks (subjective assessment of theirs).
Forming a group of the same level is important for the pace of the course which should neither be too quick nor too slow.
Normally, for a training we need to do a research of the technology even if we’re well acquainted with it.
It helps kicking off with some history at first (project creators, release date, where did inspiration come from), related technologies (comparison tables), current release and newest features. I have to create an agenda of topics and topic contents as well – just as books do. Then I need to design a structured material, put some code samples, graphics (diagrams), create demos and exercises for the people if needed. So we have extensive slides, demos on-site and exercises for the labs or at home.
An Action Plan for Building Training Slides
I usually follow the same pattern creating a course content. I do create skeletons of presentations and estimate very roughly in a matter of time. Then I follow this flow. Here it is.
1. Browse My Courses Portfolio
Since I’ve trained dozens of training classes already, there is a chance that I can reuse some presentations or at least slides (graphics, code samples, comparisons, stats) for the current training as well. I could also mix 3 presentations and create a pretty neat and useful one here.
As I switched to Google Slides 4 years ago, it’s really convenient to copy a deck and reuse the existing look-and-feel (and most of the intro/outro slides as well). Moving specific slides over from other decks is also trivial.
2. Search Through Slideshare
We’re creating slides. Then why not we check for other presentations from authors and see if we could learn anything new or gain inspiration about demos and labs?
Slideshare or Speaker Deck are two of the most popular presentation networks out there. If you follow speakers on LinkedIn, check their profile pages for pinned or tagged slides in the featured section.
3. Google Similar Training Courses
Since I’ve already built my skeleton and my timing, it’d be great to compare it to several other training classes out there.
This could be _very_ subjective as it depends on the level of understanding of the group, the type of the training (lectures, samples, Q&A, labs, other) but still, some synchronization could be done based on similar training programs.
Universities, private academies, bootcamps and sites like Udemy probably cover similar topics and can serve as an inspiration.
4. Tutorials And FAQs
Straightforward, browse online for tutorials and FAQ sections that could help adding some piece of information or example in the slides.
Google lists down “People also ask” for most terms out there. Combined with their “suggested phrases” section while typing, this can spark a number of ideas as well.
5. Google with filetype:ppt
An extra slideshare search addition for other presentations all over the world. I managed to find a Chinese presentation once that was not readable for me, but 2 of the graphics were very helpful.
6. Check For Demos And Labs
Sites such as Java2s and other resources are so-called ‘code repositories’. Same goes for GitHub and BitBucket, and you could find great sample projects or code snippets, well documented there.
If your course is truly hands-on, chances are you’ll need a working environment, a sandbox, sample work snippets, quotes – you name it. Programmers can dive into GitHub, marketers can browse HubSpot, designers use Smashing Magazine or look at Dribbble or Behance or other sources of inspiration (Pinterest included).
Don’t forget freemium tools that your class can use to practice.
7. YouTube Videos
I used to avoid video tutorials for several years, but most topics are covered as video tutorials and samples on YouTube which is great. So use it as an extra resource.
Extra tip: check out related videos and look at the comments. Users often ask strategic questions you may need to answer in your slides.
8. Standard Google Fu Phrases
Be smart with your Google searches:
- X examples
- X demos
- X code samples
- X library
- X case study
- Top X tools
- Best free resources on X
9. DZone/Reddit search
Social bookmarking sites and directories could be related to the tech you need to cover. Try them as well.
Quora is a go-to source for me when it comes to topic research and analysis. Facebook groups can come handy at times, and occasionally LinkedIn groups too.
Check for the top books on the topic (and purchase a couple if needed).
You can usually access the Table of Contents and draw enough inspiration for the structure of your talk and the key points you have to cover.
Twitter gathers over 300 million people and some of them probably share questions, concerns or news about your topic.
Certain communities are more active on Twitter than others – including tech, journalists and marketers, investors.
This covers StackOverflow (the development community) but also taps into the broader StackExchange network.
As a more niche (and often geeky) community, it’s specifically valuable for tech and occasionally gathers some of the leading masterminds in the ecosystem.
I’ve stumbled upon the authors of a framework or a library answering questions themselves.
While researching topics, podcasts can be a great source of information.
Certain course topics are already available as ongoing podcasts. Find the top leaders in the field and download their shows to grasp the niche topic better.
If a suitable topic doesn’t exist, you can probably search for influencers in your field and podcast hosts who interviewed them. A single interview often spans anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes and contains loads of invaluable data.
I love them all. They have structured content with graphics or tables for the most important phases on every popular (and not so popular) technology. I even tend to give them to students while doing some exams to help a bit and use their reading memory.
Gathering all of those techniques together ends up with a comprehensive set of slides and a collection of exercises.
Using the approximation of time for the course (or the predefined budget) can help you define the scope of work and the flow of each separate presentation.
What are the main techniques you employ while preparing to deliver a course?