It's no secret that first impressions matter. Whenever we're exposed to something new, we're quick to size things up and pass judgment. That's why great writers start their novels with a killer opening line. It's why great musicians open their albums with the perfect song. It's also why I struggle daily not to re-watch Raiders of the Lost Ark.
When you're building e-learning, hooking your audience at the beginning is crucial. In these first moments, your learners may be holding any number of preconceived notions about what they're about to see. Depending on the sort of lackluster experiences they may have had in the past, your learners may approach training with trepidation, with anxiety, with irritation, or with nothing more than apathy. That's why you need to write a strong hook, an introductory animation or video that tells learners they're in for an engaging experience. Kick your training off with a bang, and let your learners know you've got their back. Here's what you need to keep in mind to write an awesome hook.
START WITH A SPLASH
Your learners can tell if you're not getting to the point, and they don't appreciate it. Remember, this is the introduction to your entire course—so it should actually, you know, introduce the course. If you instead load it up with prefatory statements, redundant phrases, buzzwords, and over complicated sentences, you'll end up sounding like a high school sophomore who has to give a presentation on a book he didn't read.
There are a lot of ways you can get right to it. Can you start off with a bracing statistic that helps highlight the importance of your training? Can you dive into a scenario that shows the worst case scenario of what happens without your training? Can you start with a pithy quote? Think about it like you're writing a news article; no matter how great the content is, the first few sentences have the biggest impact on your impression of the entire piece—or whether you'll even continue. It's called a hook for a reason, so go for it and start strong.
SET THE TONE
Your hook also offers the first taste of what learners can expect from your training. This is a great chance to establish the tone and style to show people exactly what they're getting into. This can take many forms. If the tone of your training is crisp and professional, you may want to establish your authoritative voice. If your training plays with a genre (say, a spy thriller or activewear campaign), take your cues from that genre and dig in.
You don't want to promise something you're not delivering, so be authentic. Present the best version of what learners can expect, set their expectations, and get them excited for the rest of the training. You decided on the tone of your training for a reason, so this is your chance to double down on whatever excites you about the tone and put it into action.
SELL THE BENEFITS
Depending on your training environment, your e-learning may or may not be mandatory. Your audience may or may not be captive and locked into completing this training regardless of their engagement level. But whether you're trying to grab people who have the freedom to click away or you're hoping to engage those who have no choice in the matter, you should demonstrate the benefits of your training early on. Why does your training matter? How will it change behaviors or shift perspective? What's the big idea? Make your strongest case right up top and obliterate any preconceived notions.
This does a few things. It generates buy-in from your audience, showing them that they're in good hands and you know what you're talking about. It also gets learners engaged as they start thinking about the real, tangible benefits they stand to gain by completing the training. And, importantly, it's a good chance to make sure you're clear on the purpose of your own training. Think of this as your elevator pitch. Crystallize your argument and show it off right at the start.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET CREATIVE
We love using our creativity to make stuff better. We can't help ourselves, really. Life is too short for boring e-learning. That creativity can take many forms, but try thinking about it from the learner's perspective. What would draw you in? Think about how you can help your training stand out from the rest of the field. That could mean a unique tone, striking visuals, or fascinating content. Take your strengths and dial them up.
Don't let yourself be pinned down by your preconceived notions of what training can be. As you write, play around with ideas and see if anything sticks. Maybe you want to write in the style of a big-budget action movie. Maybe you want to write something set on another planet. Maybe you want to write a song. Maybe you just want to be funny—and not corporatespeak "case of the Mondays" funny, we're talking real funny. Start wild, and trust your instincts. Even if you end up dialing your creative choice back, you still will have pushed your training in an interesting new direction. And trust us, your learners will notice.