Category Archives: Storyboarding


THE UNEXPECTED Chapter Four Graphic

“Okay.” Jess was still laughing. “What was the surprise?”

“So Susan–she’s the compliance attorney–is going through her list of compliance topics, right? Everything is boring and fine, and then she asks me if I can make the course engaging!”

“Really? That’s great! I knew I liked her!” Jess looked at him, prompting him to go on. “What did she mean by that?”

“That’s exactly what I asked her!”

“And what did she say?”

“I’ll tell you…I’ll tell you her words exactly. She said…I’m not kidding…this is what she said…” Damien lowered his voice, “I love a good story.” He leaned back in his chair, “That’s what she said…’I love a good story’…that’s it!”

Jess looked past Damien in a far-off look kind of way. “Yeah,” she said.

Damien could see his actress friend imagining a staged production of compliance-on-Broadway. He wasn’t having it and tried to bring her back to reality. “Isn’t that crazy?” asked Damien, looking for a little bit of empathy.

“You know, I think she’s on to something,” said Jess.

“Come on!” said Damien, “You’re siding with the lawyer?”

“Listen, I tell stories all the time when I’m facilitating training.”

“Yeah, but that’s with sales people in a classroom! We’re talking about eLearning for thousands of employees!”

“So?” she challenged him.

“So, it’s a huge difference!”

“How is it different?” She went on, “I tell success stories, I tell stories about sales people who make missteps, we do role play…you could do something like that in eLearning, right? Maybe not role play per se, but what about writing some scenarios?”

Damien didn’t like the direction of the conversation, but Jess made some sense. “Okay, maybe I could see where scenarios would be helpful…maybe.”

“Look, it’s not that complex,” she said. “You have some fictitious employees in some sort of an ethical dilemma. Right?”

“Okay,” Damien relented. “You’re the actor. Any tips?”

“Well…why don’t you find out what’s really happening out there and build a scenario based on that? Did the compliance lawyer give you some examples?”

“No, but…yeah, I guess I could ask her about that.”

“Damien…” she stopped. She looked serious. Jess took a pen out of her purse and scribbled on a napkin. She slapped the napkin face down on the table in front of Damien. “This is your mission. I want a report next week.” She got up and joined a group of friends near the bar.

Damien chuckled. “Always the actor,” he said as he turned the napkin over. There was Jess’s dramatic flourish and his mission:

“Write a story they’ll love.”

Master the art of storytelling from analysis to delivery with Story Design.



THE UNEXPECTED Chapter Three Graphic

That evening, Damien met some of his college friends at the Question Mark Grill. Jess, a theatre major turned corporate trainer, and the one responsible for introducing him to talent development, was there.

“Hey Damien! How’s the job?”

“Full of surprises lately,” he said.

“How so?” asked Jess.

“Well, I had a meeting with a corporate attorney a few days ago and something she said is bugging me. She wants compliance training.”

“And that’s bugging you? Come on, compliance is a blast!” she teased.

Damien shook his head. “This should have been an easy project. Just a bunch of boring policies that people need to know about. Awareness stuff, you know.”

“Hm,” she said thoughtfully. “Awareness…I don’t know. Wouldn’t you put awareness into the same category as marketing…or communications? Is that really the realm of training?”


Jess ate a chip, then continued,

“Think about it. What should you actually do if you are aware of something? Shouldn’t you focus on that?”

“Focus on what?” Damien was confused.

“Focus on the action. Like theatre. When you read the policy…what are you supposed to do with it? It’s like reading a script and just…you know, you can’t just read it. You’ve got to act!”

“That’s what Susan said.”


“The lawyer. She said that too.”

“She talked about theatre? I like this lady!”

“No, she said it was important for employees to know what to do with the policies.”

“Did she give you some examples?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“Well, what do the polices say? You read them, right?”


“What do they say you’re supposed to do?”

“Have you read a corporate policy lately? They don’t tell you to do anything. They tell you not to do things.”

“Good point,” she said, but she was still thinking. “But what if during one of my sales training classes, all I did was teach sales people what not to do. How is that going to help them?”

“That’s an interesting way to put it.” Damien thought a minute. “But compliance is different.”

“How?” she asked. “If you aren’t training people to do something, how can you call it training?

“Yeah,” he had to admit she was right, “But seriously, the policies are basically a list of ‘do nots’. To your point, they are full of…what would you call it?…non-performance?”

Jess laughed, “I can just see the looks I’d get if I started my class with: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, let’s review the non-learning objectives before we get started.'”

Damien smiled. “Anyway, that wasn’t the surprise.”

Master the art of storytelling from analysis to delivery with Story Design.


“I Don’t Have Time To Storyboard!”

Storyboard house 1

This guy is really happy with his new home. He hired an architect, who designed it just as he envisioned. Apparently, this dude likes symmetry.

Storyboard house 2

His neighbor is not so happy. The builders just showed up and started building. The builders have a lot of re-work to do.

When a homeowner decides to build, they hire an architect, who designs something according to their wishes. The architect passes that design on to the contractor, who hires subcontractors. The house is built according to design and the homeowner is happy.

Similarly, the stakeholder in a training intervention hires an instructional designer to design a course according to their specifications. The instructional designer passes their design to the developer and the support team to create the course accordingly. The stakeholder is happy and the learning intervention is successful.

Storyboard Compare 2
Thanks to Kevin Thorn of Nuggethead Studioz for the house / course analogy.

What do the architect and the instructional designer have in common? The architect produces a blueprint. Likewise, the instructional designer creates a STORYBOARD!

The storyboard is like a blueprint for course-building. Without it, the stakeholder does not have a clear picture of what the final will look like and the likelihood of changes in the development phase increases.

A storyboard helps the designer spot problems before development begins and decreases the likelihood of an irate stakeholder who is asking you to rebuild their house.

Yet even with all of the benefits of storyboarding, few instructional designers actually do it. “I’m the designer and the developer.” “I don’t really know how.” And, of course, “I don’t have time.”

Storyboarding is a skill–a fairly simple one–that, if mastered, will save you a load of time. And it really doesn’t take that long to create a storyboard. Even if you are a one-person training department, resist the urge to put on your developer hat before the design is complete. It will save you countless hours of needless work.

I’ll share more on storyboarding techniques, but I’d like to hear some of your best practices, or frustrations, with storyboarding. Let me know in the comments!