First Briefing With The Client: 6 Basic Meeting Takeaways

A Learning Designer's First Meeting With A Client
Summary: The first briefing with the client; what should you bring to the table as a learning designer, and what should be your meeting takeaway?

Essentials For Learning Designers In The Commercial Sector: First Meeting With The Client

The very first meeting with the client is always a mixture of ‘getting to know you’ as well as getting to know the project at hand. A general overview takes place – the client shares their needs and expectations and the learning designer shares the approach, the possible directions and does some information gathering.

We will look at the 6 main pockets of information you should never leave the first client briefing without.

1. Who Is The Learner

If the content of a course is what you write and design, then knowing your learner is how you write it and design it. It is what is ‘read between the lines’ rather than the lines themselves.

Consider asking the following questions to find out who is the learner – the key audience:

  • How proficient is the learner in the English language?
  • What is the education level of the average learner (for example, high school, vocational, academic, etc.)?
  • When and how do you anticipate the learner to be doing this online course? (For example, in short, blocks while commuting or at work for a full day.)
  • Would you describe your typical learner to prefer a ‘hands-on’ approach and constructing their knowledge through doing, through reading, or both?
  • Are all the learners on a similar skills/knowledge level when beginning the course (is there a need to establish RPL)?

Knowing the learner will enable you to:

  • Choose the appropriate tone for the course. For example, the tone might be informal, professional, friendly yet formal, etc. The tone will permeate the whole course, from start to finish – within the content and within the learner’s instructions. The course introduction might say ‘Select the start button to kick off this course’ or it might say ‘Welcome to your course. Please, select the 'Start' button to begin.’
  • Apply the appropriate language. The syntax complexity, sentence length, vocabulary, use of jargon, etc. will be dependant on your learner profile. The language used in a rigging course will be more direct, simpler in syntax, with less specialized vocabulary to one used in a course aimed at academia.
  • Determine visual richness vs. text heaviness. Some learners might need courses that are very image/visually heavy and light on text. For example learners with ESL.
  • Devise an appropriate narrative tool. You might devise a character that will lead the learner through their course journey and enable them to better connect and immerse themselves with the course content. A similar effect can be achieved by devising a series of scenarios with characters that are relatable to the learner.

2. What Is The Goal Of The Training?

What is the client trying to achieve with the upcoming training? Ultimately, the client will be trying to improve their processes, production, customer service, and so on. Specifically though, as a learning designer, you should understand the following:

  • Why is the client implementing this training?
  • What do the learners need to be able to do at the end of the training? You can also rephrase this to 'What does the learner know (or can do) at the end of the course that they did not at the beginning'?

These two questions should give you enough information to go on with – until the second meeting with the client or until you acquire a set of specific training outcomes.

3. Content And Assessment Development

Find out how much of the content has the client prepared. There are two possibilities:

  • They have the training content prepared. In this case, you will just need to appropriate it with the correct tone of voice, language and narrative tools to bring the content closer to the learner.
  • They do not have the content prepared. In this case, you will need to arrange an SME with the client and develop the content in collaboration. You might also need to collaborate with an instructional designer to better shape the training program outcomes.

Assessments are another area in which you will need to work closely with the client. If the course is non-accredited, you can develop formative assessment items such as self-marking interactive challenges, quizzes, branching scenarios, gamified tasks and so on. However, if the course is accredited and needs to be compliant, you will have to work with the client’s SME and an Instructional Designer.

4. Assets Expectations

Show the client an eLearning demo with various learner’s journeys, showcasing a variety of assets:

  • Note to which of them the client responds positively – this is a good indication of a stylistic direction they will want to follow.
  • Discuss what the interactivity level of the course will be. Usually, higher levels of interactivity demand longer production times.
    For example, show the client various types of animations, to understand what type of characters/infographics they like. Determine whether they will have videos in their course. Will it be screen capture videos or editorial videos? Is there a need for simulations? Branching scenarios?

Be clear about what you can offer and allow the client to clarify what level of asset expectations they have for the course. If you don’t make this clear, you might end up in situations where the client settles for screen capture videos, but later in their first review, they ask for an editorial video. This can have a huge impact on production schedules and of course budgets.

5. Timeline Expectations

You are now at a point in the meeting where you have a basic understanding of the client’s needs and the level of involvement this project requires. Hopefully, you are attending the meeting with a Project Manager and, together, you can propose a loose project timeline, and offer a more precise one once the project scope and production schedule have been created. Keep in mind, the client will always expect a timeline, so it is best to provide a general one than none at all.

6. Dissemination Expectations

The client might have nothing in place for course dissemination in which case you could suggest a Learning Management System (LMS). Of course, there are a number of LMSs (cloud-based as well as open-source), and as a professional in your field it is prudent to familiarise yourself with a few; know their pluses and minuses. For example, take note on how much content customization they allow, how intuitive and encompassing their reporting is, how easy it is to enroll learners, share courses, pricing and so on. Then, you can match your clients needs to an appropriate LMS.

Of course, there are many more questions you can bring to the table on that very first meeting and as you gain experience, you will know which to pose to which client.

The questions above, however, are the ones you should not leave the meeting without. It will help you devise a strategy to designing the learner’s journey and in turn, help you formulate an assets ‘inventory’ and a production schedule.