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Directing Your Audience

One of the most basic steps when designing a training course is to focus on your audience. However, this is sometimes easier said than done, especially if the training you are designing will be released company-wide. How do you focus on and engage such a varied audience? Build on what you do know about them, then use that information to create a course that effectively teaches by using targeted instructional theories and UX/UI strategies.

The House Experiment

To demonstrate this, I’d like you to imagine a house about 30 miles outside of town. Inside that house is a room with a fireplace. In front of that fireplace is a chair, and next to the chair is a dog. Do you see it in your mind? Perfect.

Now, let me tell you what mine looks like. I picture a log cabin in the mountains. It’s night and the room is dark except for the light from the fire. The chair in front of the fire is a green fabric wingback chair with a yellow lab asleep on the floor next to it on an old mauve floral rug. I’m willing to bet you had some differences in your house. If you did this exercise with a group of 50 people, there might be a few similarities, but ultimately all 50 people would picture something different.

Setting the Stage

Now, if I changed the activity and began with some basic information, we would have a different outcome. Priming learners to generate what you want and expect helps you focus a message, even with a diverse audience. If I told you about how I visited my grandparents’ cabin in the woods last weekend with my yellow lab where I curled up with a novel in my favorite green chair in front of the fire, then asked you to do the imagination exercise, chances are you would construct a house more similar to mine because I directed your focus.

Let’s try another famous example.

  • Think of a number between one and ten.
  • Multiply that number by nine.
  • If that creates a two-digit number, add up the digits (27 would be 2+7=9).
  • Subtract five from that number.
  • Find the letter of the alphabet that is associated with that number (1=A, 2=B, 3=C, etc.).
  • Think of a country that starts with that letter.
  • Now think of an animal that begins with the LAST letter of the name of the country.
  • Finally, think of a color that begins with the LAST letter in the name of the animal.

About 97% of the people who do this exercise will think of an orange kangaroo in Denmark.

Directing Learners

To have 97% of your audience end up with the same result is pretty impressive. With the right placement and organization of your content in employee training, you can have the same experience with your audience. The more strategic we are with our ability to guide our learners, the more successful we will be in getting them all to the same end goal, whether that’s a business goal, a desired performance, or a shared frame of mind.

So whenever you feel like you don’t know your audience well enough, focus on what you do know about them and use that information to help direct their focus while navigating through the course. This will improve results, both for you and for your learners.