Why do people say, “You can’t judge a book by its cover?” We make snap decisions all the time and those decisions are based on the first impression, which metaphorically speaking, is the book cover. Books by Chip Heath and Dan Heath got me thinking about their high impact book covers and how important first impressions are to online training.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
For the uninitiated, Chip Heath and Dan Heath are the authors of Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive. I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by Dan Heath last week and, of course, that got me thinking about his books. The intriguing covers set the expectation that what is inside will be interesting, high quality, and valuable. Take a look at the covers.
|What is stickier than duct tape? Do you think this book will have creative ideas?||What is the first analogy that comes to mind when you think of the word “switch?”||Does a magic eight ball make the topic of decision making seem interesting?|
Your online training should have an equally strong opening. Visual style, audio, and movement create the first impression. The first impression sets the stage for what will follow. I can hear the objections now …
- We don’t have the time or budget to make it “pretty.”
- Our content speaks for itself.
- Fill in your excuse here ______.
Why should we care about first impressions? Two thought leaders in learning and how the brain works tell us why first impressions are important.
Robert Gagné, the educational psychologist, identified nine steps of instruction. You guessed it — Step 1: Gain attention. What does it mean to gain attention? It means you present a stimulus that gets your target audience to pay attention to your message. After all, if they don’t pay attention, they’re not going to learn anything. None of us want our training to be ignored.
John Medina, author of Brain Rules, says, “If you are trying to get information across to someone, your ability to create a compelling introduction may be the most important single factor in the later success of your mission.”
When we create course introductions, we should look at entertainment and marketing for ideas on “hooking” your audience. Movie directors know they need to hook their audience in the first couple of minutes. Why don’t instructional designers get that? Compare your reaction to these two openers.
James Bond Movie
Typical Online Training
|At the end of this training, you will be able to:
If you’re like me, James Bond movie openers invoke thoughts of adventure, drama, and action. They catch my attention and I want to find out what happens. On the other hand, learning objectives can put me to sleep — and as an instructional designer, I write learning objectives!
One of the lessons learned from the Heath brothers’ books and Dan Heath’s presentation is that first impressions are important! Visual design, use of analogy, and creativity are essential factors for starting online training. What techniques do you use to gain and keep attention?
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