Blog Post

Knowing Isn't Doing

Published: Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Need to Know, Nice to Know, & Where to Go" is a good way to teach how to prioritize for building presentations. However, it does not always point to action.

When a Subject Matter Expert (SME) builds a presentation on their own they tend to overshare information. As an Instructional Designer you quickly learn when building content for a SME how and how not to ask questions.  If you ask, should they know about this? Or, is this important for them to know? The answer is always, or mostly always, going to be "YES! Are you crazy?! They need to know that information!"

A way that I have been teaching for how to build presentations and streamline content is on the "Need to Know, Nice to Know, Where to Go" basis.  I, as a general rule of thumb, like to recommend that "Need to Know- makes the slide, Nice to Know - makes the notes, and Where to Go - Makes the Handout."  This works at face value. 

It doesn't completely work when you are content heavy.  If you're going through a large organization change or launching a significant new product then this might not work out so well.  Why? Because learners can become lost in the content. The can get lost in the maze of what they need to know that they freeze and don't do anything with the information. No matter how flashy or well-constructed the content- if there is too much, it's too easy to get lost and overwhelmed.

Cathy Moore has popularized the idea of 'Action Mapping" and I'm a big fan of this. However, I find that when I work with SME's that are building their own content the conversation boils down to the choice between two simple words. KNOW & DO.


On a recent project I stood up, walked over to the white board and drew a big circle. I asked the subject matter experts what the learner needs to DO in order for the program to be a success.  The SME's first response was, "They should know...".  No... "What do they need to DO?" 

 If you're not asking this question first then you're missing the most impactful part of your next presentation- What does the learner need to DO

Put these items upfront in your presentation.  "Hello learners, after the training today you'll need to do X,Y, and Z by X date.



KNOWING ISN’T DOING. How do you build content that leads to action?

About the Author

Richard Stange, CPLP® was born and raised in the great state of Iowa.  He studied art, design, and photography at the University of Iowa where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree.  Prior to beginning his career at The HON Company, Richard was a personal trainer where he honed his skills for helping people to improve. Richard has since expanded his expertise in different departments and positions at The HON Company including Customer Service, Sales, and now is the National Learning and Development Manager.  Richard's passion is around organizational development, performance, and helping to bring actionable learning to both employees and partners of The HON Company. 

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Great Article. I really appreciated the break down of Need to Know being in Presentation, Nice to Know in Notes, and Where to Go makes the Handout. It also helps for SME's to see their information is being used, just not all up front in the presentation. I plan to share this article with our staff.
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We are getting ready to roll out a Leadership Development program next month and I'm working on content. I can tend to get caught in the information overload and the statement "of course they need to know that information!!" This timely article is awesome! Much needed advice on this Friday! :-) Thank YOU!!
Glad to hear it, Shawna! Good luck on your roll-out!
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Thank you.
You're welcome, Vanessa!
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