The situation: You launched to crickets, underwhelming numbers, or non-rave reviews. You’re now running forensics to determine what to tweak and everything is on the table to be examined. Including your course.

[Read Part 1:  Defining & Solving Your Customer Problem 

& Part 3: Curing What Ails Ya]

Part 2: Organizing for Attention & Retention

There are two gremlins who lurk over the shoulder of any instructor – even one who is blessed with very motivated students – they are attention and retention, and by default they work against you.

Part of the human condition, they are pesky, stalky and annoyingly persistent. (I think of the Fatal Attraction scene: I’m not going to be ignored, Dan!”)

Your material must account for them. YOU must do the heavy-lifting to both organize and deliver your content in a way that resonates with your students. This means you need to:

  • Sacrifice the less-important details for the survivability of the most-important
  • Make the applicability of what you’re teaching crystal clear
  • Package & deliver your material in a clever way that helps students remember: Stop-Drop-Roll;  In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue..

Here are some ways to get this done:

1. Organize around a real world problem.

Do you want to learn curriculum design?
Or do you want to be able to create a course that delights your customers?

Do you want to learn the features of Evernote?
Or do you want to manage your launch without going crazy?

We already know to emphasize this on the sales page and in promotions. But many times, I’ve seen people reel prospects in with business-oriented outcomes on the sales page, but then organize the course into weird academic modules with maybe one big “Putting it All Together” section at the end that finally integrates the info into something moderately helpful.

You’re targeting entrepreneurs, not grad students!

Put yourself in your students’ shoes and list out the problems they are facing that would cause them to purchase your course. As close as you can, structure your course around equipping them to solve those problems. It will keep you rooted in the practical and applicable, and it will absolutely help your students recognize the value of your course.

If you find it “too hard” to organize this way because your material covers too broad a range (for example: products AND services), your course is too broad.

I’m not saying all broad courses fail all the time. I’m saying if your course is already on the gurney, you need to narrow your focus on rocking out one specific niche.

2. Convey the learning using Story, not facts or data.  

The human brain is wired for story. Packing details, persuasion and evidence inside a narrative is the single most effective way to deliver. (Evidence abounds – if you’re curious, ping me and I’ll pop in some citations.)

You have two basic options:

  • True stories: Case-studies with all their messy, real-world learning & we-couldn’t-have-written-this-better outcomes.
  • Made-up stories: Brief hypothetical examples that put your teaching point in context.

That covers all the bases, no? No excuses, then: Teach with Stories.

3. Don’t make your students prioritize. You prioritize for them. 

I remember the long safety briefing I received when I showed up to raft the Gauley River in West Virginia some years ago. It itemized about 701 things that we absolutely MUST do in order not to die that afternoon. Some rafters shrugged, others looked terrified. I was annoyed.

How many of these 701 important things could I possibly remember??

So, as we put-in, I asked our raft guide a few questions. Like:

  • What are the top 3 things that rafters always seem to forget?
  • What one thing makes a rafting team a pleasure to work with? An absolute pain?

What I got back in answers was a condensed, synthesized version of How Not to Die On the Gauley.

Apparently, there really weren’t 701 things we needed to remember. There were only two. Know those, and the rest would more-or-less follow.

Which would you rather have? 100% retention of your highest-priority take-aways? Or 3% retention of some kitchen sink list that annoyed, intimidated or bored your audience?

Cut it out.

Part of your expertise as an Expert is your ability to knowingly cull & sort all the available knowledge on your subject. Access to the knowledge isn’t the clincher (Wikepedia is free) it’s understanding what’s important & what’s not, and being able to apply it to the current situation, that is.

Make sure that’s what you’re supplying as an instructor.


Have a question? Pop it in, below. And check out Part 3 of How to Resuscitate Your Course.
Do you want a helping hand with reviving your course? Check out Course Incubator.