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Instructional Design Lessons from a Stupid Parking Ticket


I walked out of a meeting that ran 10 minutes long yesterday and I found a parking ticket on my windshield. I now owe the city of Seattle $47.00.

The thoughtful people at the Municipal Court have offered me a variety of ways to make sure I can pay. There’s a website I can go to. I can call a phone number. I can pay in person. They even left an envelope (though it’s not a postage paid envelope, so I’d still need a stamp) in the event I wanted to mail a check.

Basically, they’ve made it super easy for me to pay. And this is an important design element for anyone developing a training program.  

We need to make things easy on our learners, especially when it comes to steps we’d like them to take following a training session or presentation.

Let’s rank the potential ways we can deliver a call to action or next steps:

The Worst Way: Issuing a general call to action from the front of the room. I’ve seen a few charismatic, dynamic keynote speakers inspire me to look something up after their presentation, but mainly this type of call to action for next steps will slip the learners’ minds soon after they walk out of the presentation.

A Bad Way: Tell people to Google the resources. I’m definitely guilty of this one. There are so many things that come to mind in the spur of the moment and I just don’t have a URL or book title or article title on the tip of my tongue. Referring learners to post-session resources by telling them to Google a site or a thought leader is better than not exposing them at all, but there are better ways to make it easier on the learners to do something after your session.

A Good Way: Offering learners specific places to go for more information on slides throughout your presentation can be helpful. It’s probably more helpful to have a final slide in your deck that includes all of the resources you’ve shared throughout the presentation. Some of the most valuable slide handouts I’ve received from speakers are those with a summary slide of all the resources presented during a session.

A Better Way: A summary slide is nice, especially when it can be distributed as a handout. An even better solution is a one-page handout that is exclusively devoted to resources and suggested next steps for the learners. One document that is focused on where learners can find more information, what links they should click on or what books they should read or what articles they should check out can help eliminate any other “noise” they’d otherwise receive from a lengthy slide deck.

The Best Way: One of the biggest problems with handouts, no matter how well-designed, is that learners leave them in the training room, leave them in their hotel room (if they’re attending a conference) or put them in the recycle bin (intentionally or not). If you have access to learners’ email addresses, a follow-up email that includes an electronic copy of a one-page resource handout can eliminate the potential for a handout being lost or accidentally thrown away. Using a tool like MailChimp can also help set up a campaign for a series of follow-up messages with resources and reminders of how learners may wish to use the content from your presentation.

Regardless of what you choose, they key is to take a page from the Municipal Court of Seattle and make it as easy as possible on your learners to take that next step.

Do you have an even better way to make the next steps easy on your learners? I’d love to hear it in the comment section.

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