Instructional Design

How to Analyze Your Audience for Instructional Storytelling

Why Audience Analysis is Key

In the movie industry, they call it a “test screening.” In advertising, it’s “market research.” Similarly, if you want your instructional storytelling to really be effective, you need to first analyze your audience. While you might not be releasing the next big blockbuster or enticing your audience to buy a new brand, you are trying to get them to buy into your eLearning initiative. The following steps will help you get to know your audience so you can give them the training they’re craving. 


Step One: Try Empathy Mapping

Empathy mapping is just a technical term for asking yourself, “How would I feel?” Creating an instructional narrative without first putting yourself in the learner’s shoes is a common issue among organizations. After all, you know what you want them to learn; does it really matter how they feel about it? Obviously, it’s a rookie mistake that even long-established companies make.


Without helping learners understand what’s in it for them, you’ll be hard-pressed to create a storyline they really care about. Start by interviewing a few of your core audience members and asking questions about their major pain points and how they feel about current training. Get into the nitty-gritty and don’t be offended if some of their feedback is negative. Getting on your learner’s level can help you cultivate a more meaningful story. 

Empathy map example
This is an example of a manager training empathy map we developed for a large hotel chain.


Step Two: Map the Process

You know how the story starts, but how are you going to get to your desired endpoint? Process mapping gives you a chance to plot out what the ideal learning path should look like. Just make sure that you consider the current eLearning story, as well as your desired happily ever after. Map out the entire process as it looks now, and then map out how you want it to look, and you’ll easily identify the areas in which change needs to take place. Armed with what you’ve learned through empathy mapping, you’ll know where your learners are stumbling so you can smooth out the process. 

process map example


Take a look at this process map we created for a global pharmaceutical company’s conversion from in-person training to elearning.


Step Three: Add an Emotional Element

First, ask yourself how you want your learners to feel. Then, ask your learners how they actually feel. Many organizations want their learners to experience specific emotions throughout their eLearning courses, but forget to check if they’ve actually included those key emotional triggers. 


Learners can feel anything from energized and enthusiastic to drained and apathetic throughout training. Mapping emotional output alongside the process can help you pinpoint exactly where your story needs clarification, a boost, or even a break. Good instructional storytelling relies on a number of emotions (both negative and positive) to keep learners motivated and engaged. Don’t forget to ask your learners how they feel. Then, utilize those emotions to create a stronger story and a more satisfying objective.


By getting to know your audience better, you can tell a story that is more personal, compelling, and more likely to give you the results you want. Instructional storytelling is effective, but only when properly combined with audience analysis. Figure out who’s listening first and you’ll have learners that are all ears. 

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