Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Know your Audience

Tom Kuhlmann writes a great piece about getting to know your audience and avoiding common pitfalls. Unfortunately not all content project teams are lucky to get access to the audience to do such a meaningful analysis of audience needs. Interestingly some of the comments to Tom's post echo this point. So how can instructional designers know their audience, without always necessarily having access to them? Here are some tips to know your audience and get a better understanding of ‘why' you are developing the training.

  • Connect with potential audience on professional networking sites. Lurk around to see what questions get asked and what answers the audience finds useful. Don't be afraid to ask your own questions.

  • Connect with training managers and trainers and try to understand their pain areas. Build your network of training professionals in different domains. This will help you gain a better understanding of the training function and your conversations with your client stakeholders will be more meaningful if you already have some understanding of the function and pain areas.

  • To better understand your audience culturally (and this is probably more relevant for Indian instructional designers and tech writers creating content for western audience) watch movies and western television, read journals and magazines, read business books. With the Internet you have access to many of these free and you should leverage these sources to better understand your audience. Investing a little in books is investing your own skills.

  • Try to develop a business mindset. Remember you are developing content to solve a business problem. Try to identify what business problems your stakeholders are trying to solve.

  • Develop an understanding of how the training will be delivered and build solutions that will leverage the environment in which training will be delivered. Use the Internet to stay up to date with various LMS. You don't have to know the technical details but you should develop a better understand as a user of the LMS.

  • Stay up to date with technology and trends in the domain area. For example, if you are creating content on technology topics, you should be aware of the new software releases and other trends in that technology area.

Today's technology and sociological changes have made it easier for instructional designers to better engage their audience and stakeholders. Leverage these mechanisms to continually connect and network with similar audience and stakeholders even if you don't have access to specific audience for your content project.


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