Maybe it sounds obvious: When it comes to eLearning, you want to engage your audience – and not only hold their attention for a moment, but also foster increased retention of the concepts taught in the course material. The more successful this effort, the more your organization will benefit, whether through increased customer satisfaction ratings, reduced risk of accident or injury on the job, improved regulatory compliance or any number of other net positives.
Someone, or perhaps a whole eLearning team in your organization, is working hard to carefully craft an effective message for your colleagues’ consumption. This usually include video and audio elements. There are many tools available to eLearning developers that now make creating sophisticated-looking animations, infographics, etc well within reach of most organizations. So the visuals, while not in most cases of cinematic quality, can relatively readily be made high-value, conveying important details unambiguously. The audio elements, sound effects or music and an explanation reinforcing the visuals, are important parts of cementing these key data points in the minds of your students. Yet often they are the last element to be planned for, and sometimes the spoken explanations are even assigned to computer-generated, robotic voices which may provoke more confusion in the listener than comprehension. Better, but still lacking in efficacy, is a narration by the random office denizen who “has a nice voice,” or perhaps by one who happens to be an expert in the subject being taught. I don’t doubt the value of these folks in the roles for which they were hired, but let’s be honest: they more than likely do not have training in how to truly engage the listener via the spoken word. Without this crucial skill brought to the table, you run the risk of consigning the developers’ hard work to ratings of “boring,” along with reduced compliance with your training regimen as the word gets out, and reduced retention of the concepts presented.
What is an organization to do?! Here’s an example I witnessed first-hand.
A while ago I did some eLearning for the folks at Barnes & Noble. They had spent a lot of time revising their dialogue scrips to be just right. And they searched for a couple of voice talents who could really bring them to life, making them sound natural, like real customer service conversations which had been gathered from their employees. The beauty of it was that the client listened in and gave real-time feedback to the hired voices, my colleague and me. While this often isn’t necessary, it is an example of a company working hard to get their eLearning messages to their employees just right. It didn’t matter that I was in one city, my VO colleague in another, the client in a third and the agent in yet another. The end result was truly engaging audio that I as a listener actually would have *wanted* to finish hearing.
Was it more expensive for B&N to finish the project this way? Yes, I’m sure it was. But in the long run, I contend the increase in project costs is strongly warranted. Those who watched these videos came away equipped to emulate the tone and manner preferred by B&N when subsequently interacting with real customers. A computerized narration in this case would nearly have nullified the value of the training. And using inexperienced voices would likely have undermined the focused efforts of the eLearning staff as well. Taking one of these cheaper routes might even have caused B&N to have a morale or retention problem among the eLearning team itself! Instead, by going with professional VO talent, they got the best of all worlds: Happy, engaged employees at all levels, and a happier customer, which translated into a stronger bottom line.
And that’s how an engaged audience benefits everyone.