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Setting client expectations throughout your project development phases

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

So you’re working with some clients who maybe haven’t done any elearning before, or who are looking to convert their in-person training to online. We’ve seen a LOT of these situations in the instructional design world lately, and it’s admittedly been challenging getting folks to know what to expect from each phase of design and development.

Often, it can seem as though clients will hand you some manuals and an old video, and then expect you to turn around a complete, fully interactive module in a couple weeks without any iterations or feedback. Sometimes clients don’t know what to expect from content placeholders, image placeholders, or video placeholders. They might not understand that with a video-heavy project, scripts have to come first to outline and inform the video content. They might hyper-focus on draft visuals and interactions where graphic design might not be buttoned up or paragraphs might not be aligned or timing of visuals might not be in sync with the script. They might think that the whole thing sounds boring and flat and just can’t imagine getting the type of energy they are looking for - even though you have text-to-speech as a placeholder until the script is verified for voice over and background music hasn’t been chosen yet.

Trying to see a finished product in an unfinished prototype can be a challenge for clients who are new to elearning projects. However, there are ways to help mitigate some of those growing pains and get them on board with your iterative design process and get them providing the right kind of feedback at each stage.

1. Make sure you have regular meetings to level set and send follow-up summaries.

Basically, tell them what you’re about to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you’ve told them. Seriously, it sounds like overkill but oftentimes people are distracted and schedules are overfilled, meaning that they often multitasking (i.e. not listening) in regular meetings. Get a verbal or Zoom emoji thumbs-up before switching topics when you are sharing critical review guidelines. Always follow up with a summary and link to your review guidelines.

2. Establish Review Guidelines – this is your bible for review expectations.

This can be an ongoing, living document that once established, you can add to and adjust to fit your clients’ needs throughout the project. Be sure to outline what happens at each phase from both a development perspective, and a review perspective. That way, developers know what the development expectations

3. Also consider having check-ins with your client’s core team on an ad-hoc basis.

People often pay more attention in standalone meetings, multitasking and losing attention span in regularly scheduled meetings. Whether it’s because they think they know what to expect from the call, just feel overwhelmed by other work, or expect that they’ll get the low-down from the follow-up or from a coworker - the fact is that if you have 10 people in a meeting, at least 2 of them (probably more) are doing something other than listening to you explain what’s happening with Module X as a result of the beta review feedback.


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