A group inside of our firm started coming to me about a year ago asking for help designing their webcasts to make them more compelling. They chiefly wanted help with visual appeal so I started there, focusing on taking their text-heavy slides and trying to create visual analogs–substituting, for instance, descriptions of a process with a flowchart. I tried to focus on slides that complemented the speakers rather than competing with them, creating slides that were much lighter.
I tried to argue in favor of packaging all of that wonderful elaboration they put on the slides into a dedicated participant guide, though I couldn’t convince them that the value would be worth the development.
I didn’t notice right away that after a few webcasts, they stopped asking for help. I was dismayed to hear recently through back channels that they believed that I’d dumbed down the content too much, and had gotten that feedback from participants.
That hurt! There were a couple of things to unpack there. One: what had I done or not done that caused the group to just stop coming to me rather than having a conversation? How had I failed to build trust?
Two: I’m confident that my prescriptions were instructionally sound, but I have to take seriously the charge that what I provided didn’t match expectations. There are three possibilities here. One is that one or more of the team believed what I was doing was not in their interests, so any negative feedback they got fed a confirmation bias. Two is that I’m wrong and really did make their instruction less effective for their target population. The third is that we were both right, that while I made the instruction theoretically better, because it didn’t match the learners’ expectations, they found it distracting and thus learned less. All three possibilities are interesting to think about.