Instructional Presentation Is Just As Important As Instructional Design

The Instructional Presentation

If you’re an instructional designer, you may think your design work is the most important. Seems logical because without good content the course probably won’t be that good. Can a presenter ruin good instructional content? Yes! Think of instances of when a person’s verbal tone could seem genuine and sincere or be sarcastic and uncaring while using the exact the same words (e.g., “ Have a nice day”— As a long time law enforcement trainer these are words we tell new officers to never say when you give a ticket because most people won’t interpret it as sincerity).

Instructional Design is Not Just For E-Learning

When we think instructional design, e-learning might be the first thing people think about. However, instructional design is critical to instructor led training so the material is covered properly and in a logical order. At least that is the desire.

However, the reality is you could have provided a client with your best work but the course gets bad reviews. What happened? A mistake I have seen way too often is the assumption (not by instructional designers of course) that a subject matter expert (SME) is the best person to give the presentation. Sometimes they are, if they have experience as an effective instructor or facilitator. But frequently, that is not the case.

Instructional Design or Instructional Design for Success

As instructional designers, maybe we should also consider investing in our work by providing the client with a “Best Practices” checklist to make sure the goal of the training is met and basic fatal mistakes are not made with the presentation?

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a conference presented by an international organization for two days. It was one of the most painful experiences I ever encountered with professional development training. Having taught and designed training for over 20 years, I am always analyzing training classes or courses that I attend. In this particular conference, the hard copy material and references provided were good but when someone from the Federal Communications Commission who doesn’t normally teach is the best instructor— there is a problem.

So what was wrong with the conference? The content was good but the presentation delivery was bad. The SME’s set the tone and mood of the audience (less people showed up on the second day).

The Obvious is Not Always the Obvious

Some of the following may seem obvious to learning professionals but not necessarily to the client. A few tips can go a long way with the client. We want them to come back to us with more work not complaints on how our material bombed with the audience. Consider the items below as suggestions for your clients. You certainly can come up with more, but these three can have a big impact on the instructional presentation.

  1. The Room Layout
    Position the tables or chairs for attendees so they can see the instructor and audiovisual presentation. Center the audience off of the presentation screens or monitors. The instructor can always move around but the technology or attendees don’t always have the option to move. In this conference, more than half of the audience had to strain their necks trying to look at the material being presented on the screen (Remember it's not always obvious to everyone! The conference I referenced is an organization that does a significant amount of training).
  2. The Presenters
    Just because the presenter knows the subject matter doesn’t mean they will be an effective presenter. Don’t assume that your client understands this concept. Take the time to ask questions about the presenters and suggest to the client to do a dry run with the presenter (like instructional designers do with the iterative design process).
  3. The Technology
    At one time it was socially unacceptable to be on your laptops or phones during a training session. Now for many it has become their way of taking notes. However, it has also become a personal distraction during a training session because people start checking their e-mails, surfing the web or working on other projects (like taking notes for this article). Can we solve this? Not completely but I have seen in other conferences and effective way of dealing with this is by providing download links to all presentation material and not having an open wireless connection in the classroom. Sure some people have personal hotspots and smartphones, but by encouraging participants to sit back and listen to the presentation and not worry about writing everything down (because they will be able to download the material later) the end goal of learning just might happen!

As learning professionals, an instructional designer’s success does not end with the completion of a project. Working with a client on the content and presentation can make the difference on meeting the learner’s expectations and the success of the course.

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