How many words is it worth?

Long before a group of people gather in a room or online to take a training, the training design process begins. At some point during that process, an idea of what that training will eventually look like is generated and subsequently explained.

The creative process varies; both by person and by project. Various tools help designers and developers work to get to the final stages of training. One process I like to do during the training development process is storyboarding. A storyboard is basically a few frames of images, usually with some text, that graphically represent a sequence. In the context of Instructional Design, it is the sequence of your training. I think of it like a lesson plan comic strip.  

I use storyboards for myself as I am thinking about a training. I also use them as I am explaining what is going on in my head to other people. Storyboards help to lay out a timeline of the training session, organize thoughts, and can be created with very little content. Many ideas are simply easier to explain visually, which is why I like to show others my boards as I discuss my vision of a project.

A simple storyboard can be quickly created with a pencil and some paper. Draw a few squares with room beneath for text. Each square represents an idea or a part of the training. In each box, roughly sketch your ideas. Keep the text below your panels to a minimum. This is a visual representation, not a synopsis of your training. Remember, this is just a step in the process of creating your training and it is likely to change. If you anticipate a lot of changes, you may want to use sticky notes so you can easily switch things around.


You can also create storyboards digitally — there are several apps built specifically for storyboarding. I create storyboards in PowerPoint. Using built in shapes and icons, storyboards can be put together quickly. The one below took less than 15 minutes.


Creating a digital storyboard makes it simple to swap out a panel or change the order, but it does take a bit more time than a hand sketch. I usually do both a hand drawing and a digital representation. I start with a hand drawing very early in the brainstorming process. This clarifies thoughts and gives me a place to start. I then move to a digital version, one that can be easily changed and updated.

However you develop it, storyboarding should not be a time intensive exercise, just a quick way to organize thoughts and present those thoughts to others. It is an early phase of development with a purpose of being fast and malleable. A storyboard should be simple, so that you can explain your ideas simply.

Do you use storyboards to develop training? Maybe you use something else? Where does your creative process begin? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section.


3 thoughts on “How many words is it worth?

  1. Thanks, Heather! I start my design process with a mind map to gather ideas and related topics, then I move to a storyboard. I use small sticky notes on an A3-size piece of paper (about twice the size of two US Legal pages together). Not only can I rearrange the notes, but I can also store them away on the paper for use later after someone has kicked me out of the meeting room! Try the Post It Plus app to capture the notes in and rearrange them digitally later.

  2. I really like this idea of using storyboarding to organize thoughts before creating a final product. The flowchart style, especially if it is all on one page, can give a nice overview of a presentation and ensure it remains relevant to the topic.

    • Thank you! Yes, this style really helps you get a feel for the flow of a training. When it is created early in the process, it is easy to switch out an activity if you look at your board and realize it doesn’t flow with the big picture.

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