Whether you’re leading a seminar, teaching a class, or just training a group of new employees, a workbook can make your experience more immersive, more educational, and more engaging for your participants.
With a better workbook, your group of participants can have a reliable source of information and reference points – and at the same time, they’ll have an opportunity to develop their own skills and knowledge independently.
The question is, what steps can you take to create a better workbook from scratch?
Budget for Professional Printing
Before you start writing, understand that the best workbooks are presented professionally – so you’ll need to budget for professional printing.
Spiral binding is ideal for most workbooks, since it allows participants to quickly flip through the pages and keep the book open in front of them on a desk or table. Spiral binding is also relatively affordable, so you can keep your printing costs minimal while still providing value to your team.
Paper stock and process.
There are many types of paper stock to choose from, but usually, thicker is better. Thicker pages tend to be stronger and more durable, and they look more professional to most people as well.
Most importantly, choose a printer well known for their quality assurance. Printing errors and binding mistakes can make even the best-written workbook look amateurish.
Start With Data
When you sit down to start your first draft, gather all the information you have. The more data you have to work with, the more informed your workbook is going to be.
Be careful attention to the following at minimum:
Who is going to be reading and using this workbook? What is the current knowledge level of these participants? How much experience do they have? What are their current beliefs and values? What type of communication is best for engaging them? Market research helps significantly here.
Competition and peers.
It’s a good idea to practice competitive research as well. Are there other workbooks similar to this already published and in circulation? What are your peers doing and what can you learn from them? What can you do differently or better?
Core subject matter.
Of course, you’ll also need to be intimately familiar with the subject matter of the workbook. The more informed you are, the more authoritative your workbook is going to be.
Write for a Low Reading Level
Generally, you should err on the side of writing for a low reading level. Using simpler vocabulary words and more basic sentence structures will maximize the appeal and make sure no one is left out. There’s minimal risk to this; advanced readers probably aren’t going to complain about simplistic vocabulary and semantic choices when their primary goal is learning.
One of the most common pieces of advice for public presentation is to avoid reading your PowerPoint slides (or other presentation materials) directly. This is good advice, because it helps you avoid redundancy; if the information is already available to a participant, they don’t need to hear it again. Follow this principle in writing your workbook as well; if you’re going to present material to students in real-time, only include bullet points and summaries in the workbook.
Leave Plenty of Space for Interaction
Workbooks are distinguished from other types of published materials because they’re interactive; highlight this advantage by leaving plenty of space for interaction by participants. Interactive sections could include:
Allow your participants to work out problems.
Questions and answers.
Ask critical questions of your participants and encourage them to write responses.
To-do lists and checklists.
Use to-do lists and checklists to keep your participants organized.
If this is part of a seminar or conference, allow some free scheduling.
Give your participants an open area where they can take notes and reflect.
Get Feedback and Rewrite
Finally, get some feedback and be prepared to rewrite your entire workbook if necessary. The entire point of this workbook is to provide more value to the people using it – so if people in your target audience don’t respond to it as well as you’d hoped, you’ll need to take their feedback seriously and incorporate it in a revised version. Test your workbook with a group of people who represent your target demographics and ask them critical questions about their experiences with your workbook. Do they find it accessible? Easy to use? Engaging? Depending on their answers, you may only need to make a few tweaks or you may need to rebuild everything from the ground up.
Creating a better workbook isn’t exactly hard, but it does demand some effort and attention on your part. The more you put into your workbook, the more your participants are going to get out of it, so it’s important to take this exercise seriously.
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