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ATD Blog

Captivate Your Learners

Thursday, April 11, 2019

How do we prepare and provide a great learning experience for a diverse audience every time? For years, I’ve wrestled with this question and set out to identify the most important considerations when designing a learning experience. There are so many of them it can feel overwhelming, particularly when our projects have a short timeline and inadequate resources. And seriously, when do we have an abundance of either?

Here’s a simple list of components to consider when designing a learning experience—comprehensive enough that you can create a great experience but simple enough that you do not succumb to paralysis by analysis. The list stems from some of the questions that keep coming up when designing a learning experience:

  • What will keep my audience from recalling the lesson?
  • How much effort is required to learn this content?
  • How difficult will it be for the audience to pay attention in the experience?
  • What cause do they have to learn?
  • How humble are they?

Admittedly, there is some overlap in these questions. My goal was to cover the most important factors, and I find it tremendously useful when preparing and providing learning experiences. As I’ve practiced it, I’ve found that nothing has to be the standard instructor-led training course. It can be online learning. It can also be coaching, action learning, stretch assignments, keynotes, or any other type of developmental or educational experience.

If you look carefully at these questions, you’ll see that learning requires REACH: recall, effort, attention, cause, and humility. The acronym is also a metaphor; it’s also helpful to picture the learner actually reaching up for the experience. I envision a person in a library standing on their tiptoes trying to reach a book on the top shelf. The role of the designer and facilitator is to create such a great experience that even the most complacent participant extends their hand to grab that lesson.


And that is why this method is so effective. The designer and facilitator must think more about what the audience is experiencing than what the instructor is doing. This acronym helps us to do that every time.

During my session at the ATD 2019 International Conference & EXPO, we’ll explore how to reach for those aha moments. We’ll discuss how to simplify some of the complexities with memory, brain science, engagement, and reinforcement. We’ll discover methods of sidestepping someone’s pride to offer a needed behavior-change. And, of course, we’ll have fun!

About the Author

Kyle Farris is a leadership development manager at Toll Brothers, Inc. and president of The Way Home, a nonprofit providing pathways out of homelessness in Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He is a Certified Professional in Talent Development and holds a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology. Bringing a fresh perspective to the field, he is known to challenge the status quo to create memorable and intellectually stimulating learning experiences in leadership development, emotional intelligence, and change management. Kyle's life is dedicated to developing leadership excellence in individuals, organizations, and communities.

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