How You Can Captivate Your Learners

“Bugger!” thinks John Gerrard

“I’m screwing this up”

John has written an in-depth Modlette on management coaching.

His narrative includes his tips learnt over years of coaching in a corporate environment.

But doubt has crept in.

“What if nobody wants to do this Modlette, because my opening lines are rubbish?”

John has read introductions to training that truly captivated him, and made him want to keep going.  But now he has to be honest with himself . . . his own intro is not that good.

How can he change it?  How can he avoid his targeted learners clicking out?

What Makes an Introduction Irresistible?

People line up for learning/training modules for several reasons:

  • Compliance –  Ticking the boxes
  • Because they are told to
  • Because they have an option which they choose to try
  • Because they are really interested

Only then last of these reasons makes life easy for the learning designer.  The other members of your proposed audience need bait on the hook to keep their interest.

Your task is to capture these restless eyes and engage potential learners so they stop scanning and start reading.  Your content . . . with their full attention.


In your learning, you might aim to share useful tips in an entertaining way.  But the on-line world is about more than information and entertainment.  Readers also want to be comforted.  They’re looking for connections, for like-minded spirits.  They want to feel understood.

The most seductive introductions empathise with readers, and make them feel less alone.

So, show your learner you understand them and you’ll help them.

Here’s how:

Option 1: The “you” opening

This opening addresses the learner directly, and it often (but not always) starts with a question. This is the easiest type of opening paragraph to write; I use it most often.

Here’s an example:

Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of your favourite sporting team’s coach?

She feels frustrated with team members and wants to yell at them when they appear to have forgotten the game plan.

She gets annoyed when they are late for practice.

The opposition does unexpected things. 

There are so many thoughts, and you will be troubled with these type of thoughts as you start to coach your work team.

How can you create a motivating environment through your coaching skills?

Let’s explore four ways for you to become a super coach.

To write a you-focused opening, picture your ideal learner in a scene.  What’s bothering him?  What’s going wrong?  Describe this scene in your opening lines, and address the learner by using the word “you”.

Option 2: The story approach

My favourite story approach mimics the you-focussed opening. Instead of addressing the reader directly, describe a scene in the third person and conjure up a feeling your reader recognises.

For instance:

Steve Hansen coached the All Blacks for 99 test matches and an overall match result of 91% success.

It’s unlikely this will ever be bettered.

One of the special conditions during this period was the culture of the All-Black camp.  During this programme we will introduce you to this culture and the aspects that you can apply to your own workplace coach.

The danger of the story approach is that we get too focussed on telling the story.  We start straying, including too many details.  Give them enough to whet their appetites and a promise of more during the body of the training.

Option 3: The “me” introduction

I’ve always been nervous about using the personal pronoun in my writing. Am I being just a little bit arrogant, and condescending?

To make the “me” focus work, consider it as a variation on the story approach.  Instead of writing about a third person, tell your own story.  Make sure your learners share your feelings.
For instance:

My original version of the sports coach was the parent or teacher who used to be the coach of the hockey teams I used to play in.  Mostly, they would yell at half time in a frustrated way in the hopes that this would motivate us to try harder.  You had to love these guys.  They were dedicated and the sport needed them at the grass roots level.

However, as I achieved higher levels in the sport, I began to realise that the great coaches motivated with their knowledge of the game and motivating by creating a will to win.

And they never yelled.

In my later years I became a coach and spent some time reading the stories of great sports coaches.

I later discovered in my corporate career that these coaching skills were highly transferrable to the workplace.

As you can see, like face-to-face conversations, it’s okay to use the words “I” and “me”.

The Art of Writing Irresistible Intro’s.

You might think you are a trainer, sharing valuable facts and tips.  You’re a friend sharing these essentials.

You also need to become a psychologist.  Sneak into the minds of your learners.  Know exactly what they are struggling with.  Understand their feelings of frustration, worry, and despair. 

 Also, in many cases their ambition.

Writing a good intro means persuading learners that this training is for them . . .

You understand them, and you’ll share your best advice to help guide and enhance their ambitions.

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