Back-to-Basics Boot Camp: Training

9 Mar, 2022 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager’s Column: Build efficiency, knowledge, and teamwork by developing a strong in-house training program.

In prior installments of the Back-to-Basics Boot Camp series, we’ve discussed the importance of communication techniques and the art of implementing standards. Our series now continues with the concept that unifies communication and standards: Your training program.

In this edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll give you a quick series of recommendations to help you create the best training program you can, using the least amount of time possible, so you can achieve the greatest return on your training investment. Here goes.


Back-to-Basics Boot Camp: Training

Image source: photon_photo/


Solve Problems and Speed Up!

First, realize that due to the minimum of time that most upper management will devote to training, you’ll have to prioritize training topics and only spend time on the topics that really matter. You can’t train everyone on everything without investing a lot of time, right? So, how do you prioritize your training topics? Consider these metrics:

  • Does the training topic address a current problem?
  • Will the training topic give users methods to achieve greater speed?
  • Will the training amplify and enhance standards?

If you find a training topic that meets at least two of these criteria, then you know it is a valid training topic. Why? Because you’ll either eliminate a problem or speed production as you enhance standards compliance.

Notice how my criteria didn’t include items like “cool new features” or “what does the latest release of a new CAD program look like” or anything else nonspecific. My goals are to make users faster using the standards and tools we already have.


You Don’t Need Perfection to Train

Great training is just a matter of showing people the information they need quickly and in a way they’ll understand. You don’t need professionally designed graphics (screen captures work better), glossy handouts (Word documents are just fine), or perfect standards manuals (see Back-to-Basics Boot Camp: CAD Standards for examples on how to develop great standards). Some of the best training sessions I’ve ever done have included very basic course guide handouts and simple examples. Conversely, some of the worst training sessions I’ve ever attended had great demos and wonderful course guides but the instructor couldn’t communicate the information.

Conclusions to keep in mind:

  • It’s better to train users sooner with basic examples and course guides than to delay training while striving for perfection.
  • The most important part of training is to explain concepts in a way that users will understand.


Examples and Course Guides

So, what’s the quickest, easiest way to get examples and course guides constructed for your training class? Here’s what I do:

Conceive an exercise. This is an exercise I’ll use during training, so it needs to be simple enough to understand, yet demonstrate the concepts clearly. Save before and after cases of your models, parts, or drawings so you can easily demonstrate each step. And, consider rehearsing your exercise using video recordings to achieve optimal sequencing of steps.

Make screen captures of all menus and pertinent steps. I simply run through the exercise like I’m rehearsing for training and take screen captures (I use Snagit), which I then paste into a Word document to create a training “cheat sheet” for attendees.

Put in instructions. Now, I simply add the basic instructions required to work through the exercise beside my screen captures to complete my course guide — often reviewing my practice recordings to capture key phrases that I use.

Check it. I then go back through the exercise using my cheat sheet to check that everything flows correctly. When I’m done checking, I then give my course guide to a trusted power user for a “sanity and spell” check just to make sure it makes sense. Note: Nothing is worse than giving training and realizing you left something out of the course guide!


Pro Tips for Training Sessions

As you rehearse your training sessions, there are a few things to keep in mind — particularly if the session will be presented using Zoom or Teams. These are all tips that will make your training easier to follow for users so you can get the best results:

Use Goldilocks pacing. Not too fast, not too slow, keep your pace just right. Your training pace should be slower than what extreme power users can handle but faster than a novice user would want. Why? Because you’re attempting to serve the great middle category of users with training so you don’t want to lose them or bore them. If a user is having difficulty following along at the Goldilocks pace, they can always repeat the training by watching recordings (more on this in a moment).

Slow down your mouse and make it visible. It’s amazing how fast a mouse can move on screen and how hard it can be to actually see it, especially when on a large screen. Slow down your mouse movements and consider setting your training machine to use a large pointer and enable “mouse trails” so users can see it more easily.

The completion backwards principle. When you start a training exercise, explain what you’ll cover, show the completed state, and then go back the beginning to show everyone the steps in the training. This way people know what they’re trying to accomplish and the steps will make more sense.

Define resources up front. If you’ll be recording the session, creating handouts, or distributing a follow-up email for the session, then say so right at the start of the presentation.

Hold questions. Nothing ruins training faster than having a bunch of interruptions, right? So, inform your users at the beginning of your presentation that you’d like them to hold their questions until after the session. This way those users who understood everything perfectly can leave the training and you can assist those who have questions. There’s no point slowing the entire training session down.


Keep it Conversational

When you’re leading a training session, adopt the same attitude you would if you were sitting with a single user at their desk. Using plain language and an easy conversational style, simply go through the training exercise just like you did when you created it. Strive to convey a “we can do this and I’m going to share this information with you” tone while training and always stay at the user’s level so training becomes a peer-like experience. Simply and humbly explain the subject matter well and users will love the training, no matter your speaking style.


Record It!

If you’ll be running training from your computer or a laptop, take the time to record your training using a computer recording software tool (I use Camtasia) to capture your demonstrations and discussion. If you use Zoom or Teams, use the session recorder to capture your training session. The reasoning for recording training is simple: You’ll never have to repeat your training if you record it.

After the training, you simply save your recording to a common format like MP4 Flash or MPEG and place the video and exercise files on your server so anyone can watch the training again and again until they master the content.

Never repeat training! Record training and let the user repeat it!


Summing Up

Training doesn’t have to be hugely time consuming if you follow my basic methodology above. In fact, you should be able to start knocking out small, problem-solving training exercises in just a couple of hours once you get the hang of it. Let me know how the process works for you.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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