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Alison Snelling


Managing Partner

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Time to develop training materials


When developing training materials for clients, how do you calculate how many hours it will take to develop one hour of face to face 'soft skills' training, including things like research, developing workbook and handouts, activities, trainer notes and PPT slides etc?

Whilst I know this may depend on the type of training, I have heard of ratios of 22:1 down to 3:1 and wondered what other  Trainingzone members use to estimate the time it takes to develop an hour of training.  

9 Responses

  1. Re: Time to develop materials

    I think it depends on your experience as well as what you already have on the hard drive!  However looking at your list I would say that to do all of that effectivley if would take about 1 day of development to 1 hour of face-face delivery.

    However I wouldn’t advise going to a client and saying that the two day course they just bought from you is going to take 14 days of development…

    — Thanks Andrew Miller


  2. at the risk of being lynched……

    ….it also depends a lot on the client;

    If they have no clear idea of the outcome at the outset then it can either be a) quick……if they trust you or b) tortuous if they cannot articulate/decide what they want and blow with the wind and every fad they read about and every friend and relation they talk to.

    If they keep changing their minds you can end up rewriting things over and over again; this isn’t necessarily anyones "fault"; times change, different client people have different opinions and so on.

    Some clients just prefer material rich design…..lots of models, lots of content, lots of slides (they buy consultancy by the kilo!).  Others prefer experiential type activities where the trainer guide is quite thin because the students/delegates are "doing" rather than listening for a lot of the time.

    ….it also depends on who is delivering the training you write;

    If you are delivering it yourself you probably don’t need to write out every word….but if you are writing it for another trainer you may need to be a bit more prescriptive (even though that trainer may not actually deliver it the way you wrote it)….if you are writing material for line managers to deliver you may have to virtually write a script (even though again they may not actually use it the way you set it out.)

    When writing e-learning it is generally more time intensive than face to face because the computer can only do what you tell it to….it can’t think for itself.  Similarly if writing a video script for actors/voiceover to deliver (they can think for themselves but they aren’t experts in the topic.) 

    …it also depends on the commerciality…..

    ….if you are writing a course that will be used 40 times in the next year then you (or the client) may be prepared to devote more time/money to the writing…….if it is a one-off then it may not make sense to devote 22 times the delivery time to the writing, unless…..

    ….it’ll also depend on how business critical the topic is for the end user…..I recently wrote a one and a half hour training event that would be pivotal to the success or failure of an investment of about £200k….the client director was also putting his career credibility on the line over it.  As you can imagine it was worth his investing a respectable amount of time (his and mine) in getting it "right".

    Sorry if this doesn’t really help!

  3. Fair deal

    Hi Alison,

    I specialise in training design – it makes up 90% of my business, and I’ve been doing it for a number of years. For most face-to-face sessions, I use the ratio of 3 days design for one days delivery, and generally, this is accepted by clients.

    If a workshop is very generic and you have a course to base it on, OR if there is a lot of time where delegates are ‘practising’ you can probably do it in 2, but when designing bespoke materials, it is (in my experience) impossible to do it in less.

    If a workshop is very specific and/or needs to have lots of case studies etc written, then it takes more time – I charged more for a project management course as it had to have lots of case studies and link into their bespoke software system.

    I have been writing a lot of bite-size training sessions laterly (1-2 hours long) and bizarrely, these take at around 1 day to write, precisely becuase of the factors you mention, research, design, delegate materials, detailed trainer notes, basic typesetting and of course, proof-reading.

    Hope this helps,

    Sheridan Webb

    Keystone Development – Specialists in bespoke training design


  4. and a PS

    …it also depends on whether the client wants to pilot the event and what input they want from the designer at that stage and later


  5. and PPS…

    in support and agreement with Sheridan’s comment about bite size remeber the quotation from Goethe

    "I’m writing you a long letter as I don’t have time to write you a short one"

    Bite size and virtual classroom materials (because you just can’t spend all day on a webinar and remain sane!) generally take longer to prepare because you have to precis things that bit more carefully and skillfully


  6. Housrs to allow for preparation of presentations

    Unless you are on very familair territory 3:1 is not relaistic in my experience. I tend to allow an average of 5:1 but where a lot of new research is needed it can be nearer 10:1. Hope that helps

  7. number of hours for one hour of ‘soft skills’ training

    Our recent experience of developing a 2-day conceptual class about software test case design took about 22 hours per 1 hour of content just for the primary developer.  We had to create about 80% of the content, including developing a written manual, instructor manual, exercise supplement, overhead slides, designing quizes and group activities, a rewrite of an overall structure that did not hold together, two dry runs of the class with revisions and practicing for the "lecture" and discussion portions of the class. This class is offered by us as a public and private commercial offering, so we were the primary suppliers of requirements for the content based upon what we think needs training in our industry.  It is our experience that a more technical or process-centric training could take less time assuming that the processes are already defined.  Softer topics invite a lot of opinions and sometimes sensitivity to how to present the topic which can take extra time to work through.  We are slowly improving our own processes and ability to design and deliver these types of training, so we are hoping to improve upon that estimate in the future.  The class has received very positive student and client reviews, and we have considerable interest from numerous new clients.  So, it seems that the time and effort was well worth it.  We will be delivering this training repeatedly over the next few years, and we expect to make a decent profit on the training even in the first year of delivery.

    Thank you for starting a dialogue regarding this topic.  It is really helpful to see the diversity in responses.

  8. Update!

     Hello everyone 

    Thanks for your great responses and interesting thoughts! The reason I was asking this is we have proposed for designing 180 hours of learning as part of an international degree programme. In the end we went for a ratio of 4 to 1 or 720 hours of development …… and this seems to have gone down fine so far!

    I actually do not believe there is a ratio as all training is so different. We recently created a totally company specific four hour session with bespoke videos, great activities, interactive quizes, leader’s guides, unusual handouts etc etc and I think we spent 30 days on this (including 4 pilots) – but it did go to 6000 people so it was worth every moment! 

    Happy Training! 



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Alison Snelling

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