Creating high-quality instructional content is a highly-specialized skill. Whether you want to create content for a blog, a course, a coaching program, a video or audio tutorial, the principles of creating memorable and effective instructional content are the same.
In my earlier post, I introduced you to the ARCS model of presenting instructional content. You learned about the importance of including the elements of attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction in your writing. While the ARCS model will help you keep an overarching strategy in mind, you also need to work on the meat of the matter—your content.
How to Create Awesome Instructional Content
Know your audience
Be very clear about what you bring to the table and who it is for.
How can you change their lives?
What aspirations can they fulfill because of your content?
What tangible transformation will they see in themselves if they follow your advice?
Details such as the ones mentioned above are not only useful to find topics but also to customize your content as per your audience’s likes, dislikes, age, education, etc.
Think like your audience.
When you put yourself in your audience’s shoes, you will understand their challenges better and write for them instead of shooting in the dark. When you write in your audience’s shoes, your content will resonate with them.
Find your focus
Every instructional content–whether a blog post or course–begins with an idea that is not just useful but hopefully unique.
When you sit to brainstorm ideas, ensure each content piece focuses on only one broad concept.
Of course, this is easier when the scale of the content is small–such as a blog post–compared to when the scale is large–such as a course or an online program.
Let’s say you want to teach your audience how to use MS PowerPoint.
That’s a really broad subject. It includes but is not limited to:
- Creating or customizing master slides
- Adding custom animations and transitions
- Inserting and embedding multimedia
- Viewing and projecting a slideshow
High-quality content focuses on only one concept.
So, for a blogger, this would mean writing separate blog posts on each of these concepts. To bind them together, these separate posts can be tagged as a “series.”
On the other hand, if you are a course creator, you can either choose to create multiple mini courses or create an all-inclusive course but organize the content in a logical sequence.
One more thing: for each of these content pieces (posts or modules/lessons), use the SMART method to draft the outcome or goal of the post. Yes, you can apply the SMART method to content creation too.
Break the monotony
Reading on a digital device coupled with excessive content leads to physical and mental fatigue.
To reduce the onset of fatigue:
- Organize content into logical chunks to convey the flow and hierarchy of the content
- Emphasize power words or key takeaway sentences
- Use lists, where possible
- Create real-life connection and relevance by using stories, case studies, examples, non-examples, etc.
- Remember, less is more.
Another way to break the monotony of content is to include meaningful visual elements. This helps:
- Add human and emotional angle
- Reduce fatigue by break walls of text
In fact, the right image helps retain information six times more than usual.
While text remains your primary type of content, use images to complement the text. It should not take the focus away from the main content (unless it’s an infographic, in which case the body text becomes complementary).
Spend time looking for beautiful, powerful but more importantly, relevant images that evoke the necessary emotions in your readers.
The other day I saw a Pinterest image about creating an online course. It was a great image and well designed. Except it used an image of a typewriter. Show me how you can create an online course using a typewriter and I will be happy to eat my words.
Don’t be lazy with your images.
While some of us write all our content in one sitting, others write in installments.
Even if you are among those who work distraction-free, it’s good to dissociate yourself from your content once in a while.
Walking away from your work helps you return with a fresh eye and more zeal. So, next time you work on a post, allow yourself to take small breaks. Here are some ideas to utilize your breaks better:
- Grab a glass of water and hydrate yourself
- Play an uplifting piece of music
- Listen to an inspirational TED talk
- Do nothing!
Don’t force yourself to write when your heart is somewhere else. It will show in your writing.
Be brutal with your edits
Editing and proofreading are not interchangeable tasks.
While proofreading helps eliminate language errors (grammar, mechanics, typos, etc.), editing tests the objective and usability of the post.
So, next time you sit down to “edit” your content, check if it:
- Meets predefined objective(s) or outcome(s)
- Focuses on one and only one idea; remove all superfluous content
- Uses a hook in the introductory paragraph (for more information, read the ARCS post I wrote earlier)
- Is organic—meaning, each content piece is independent of other pieces in a series or course or program
- Is logically chunked and organized per hierarchy
- Flows easily from general to specific concepts and ideas
- Is engaging to read
- Uses direct, easy-to-understand, and actionable instructions
- Uses relevant examples and images
- Is grammatically correct
I hope you found this post useful. Try incorporating these tips the next time you write instructional content or any content for that matter.
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