The How-To’s of Inspirational Design for Instructional Design Consultants

Instructional Design Tips
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A question my team has been talking about lately is how marketing can help us create training events that have more impact. It’s a topic that’s come up before on this blog, for good reason. Marketers are experts in generating engagement, engagement, and loyalty, essential goals that instructional design consultants often neglect in the name of educational rigor. But to really change behavior, we need more than rigor—we need to inspire.

In a recent review of master online marketers, Doug Allen ( offered these tips. How can they help us inspire?

1. Begin by creating rapport. As Allen reminds us, “Rapport is nothing more than people seeing themselves in you.” Creating that human connection is essential for instructional design consultants, but something we often forget. How many courses have you reviewed that begin with a dry summary of objectives, “In this course, you’ll learn…”? As the saying goes, there’s no second chance to create a first impression. Make that inspirational impression by creating a human, emotional connection with the learner.

2. Authority + Social Success. According to Allen, “When people have uncertainty about what to do they look to other people around them and see what they’re doing.” How do we add that sense of community and authority to our courses? One option is testimonials. Present stories from people both inside and outside the company; present them as one friend talking to another. Use these testimonials to give learners a sense that they’re part of a larger community that’s also participating in this learning experience.

3. Reciprocity. Expert marketers know they can’t always be askers; they also need to be givers, to come across as truly adding value to people’s lives. Again, testimonials can do this. For example, past learners can testify how much the educational experience helped them advance in their careers and their lives.

4. Commitment and Consistency. Finally, Allen says that “people define their identities by the actions they take (or don’t take)…The important point to get is that action defines identity in a person’s mind, and identity defines the actions a person will take.” Instructional designers want learners to apply the lessons we offer in our courses. We do this by asking learner to take actions that define their identities and that make them think, for example, “Yes, I’m a responsible corporate citizen.” Then we can allow that identity to guide the actions learners take in the future.

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