Common Sense Tips for Outstanding Training Content [An Interview with Kati Ryan]

kati ryan interview

Unless you’re a professional trainer, it’s a safe bet you don’t consider yourself a trainer at all. But, at some point, just about everyone has to show someone how to do something.

Even if training isn’t in your title (or even your job description), chances are you’ll be asked to create some kind of how-to, training, or educational content at some point in your career. 

That means, in one way or another, we’re all trainers.

But how do you create truly effective training, how-to, tutorial, or other educational content when you aren’t a training expert? Luckily, whether it’s for your colleagues, your customers, or other learners, many of the keys to good content are the same.

At TLDC (Training, Learning, and Development Conference) we talked with 14 experienced learning professionals to hear what advice and thoughts they have about creating training content. We want to give you insight into what training is, where to start, thoughts about measuring success, and how to use images and videos to effectively train your customers and coworkers.

So, we created an entirely free course in TechSmith Academy that walks you through just that. 

We’ll post highlights from each interview here on the blog, but to get a real in-depth look, consider hopping over to the TechSmith Academy and checking out the full interviews all in one place. We also have tons of other practical tips and expert advice on creating more engaging content with images and videos.

In today’s post, we’re thrilled to share insights from training expert and noted speaker, Kati Ryan.

Want to watch the full video?

Watch the full, nearly 30-minute interview on TechSmith Academy for free. Get advice from Kati on various training and learning and development topics, including the importance of creating relevant content.

Watch Now

Lessons Learned

Throughout many of the interviews with our training experts, all acknowledged the importance of ensuring content is relevant to your audience’s needs and interests. But more than that, Kati advises non-trainer trainers to use common sense when it comes to creating training, learning, how-to, or instructional content.

Start with a goal

This may seem like a no-brainer, but Kati notes that often people are asked to create training content that doesn’t actually have a goal in mind. That’s a sure way to ensure failure. Whether it’s a behavior change, emparting new knowledge, or a skills brush-up, knowing what success looks like helps ensure that your training will be relevant and gives you a way to measure its effectiveness.

Similarly, be sure you know why people do things in a particular way. You may think you understand why a certain behavior happens (or doesn’t), but do the work to know for sure. 

Kati shares the example of a sales training where the sales staff may have already been trained on how to sell a new product, but may not have been given the proper motivation to actually sell the product. 

That’s not a training issue. That’s a process issue, and the world’s best training content won’t solve it.

But, assuming you do understand the whys, then you need to know your desired outcome. Before you even begin, ask what success looks like. What behaviors do you want to change or introduce? What does your audience need to know to make the desired changes? 

Then, create content that shows them how.

Keep it as simple as possible

As with any content project, we may tend to get lost in the details — forgetting the overall purpose of what we’re working toward. 

When creating how-to, training, or other educational content, the biggest mistake we can make is losing sight of the original goal. Keep your audience’s needs in mind — not necessarily what you want to tell then, but what they need to know.

Kati warns both experienced trainers and those who are new to creating this type of content to keep it simple. In other words, don’t over-engineer or overcomplicate your content.

That means:

  • Don’t use a ton of jargon or the latest buzzwords. 
  • Use plain language so that even novices can understand the concepts.
  • In that same vein, images can be a powerful way to convey information in an easy-to-understand way.
  • Keep images relevant to the training. A funny icebreaker image is ok to get things started, but use them sparingly. 
  • Always keep your goal in mind.
  • Remember: The whole goal is to make learning stick.

Key quotes (TLDR)

What does your audience need to succeed?

(1:30) Good training goes always back to the audience that’s receiving the training. And so, what do they need? Why do they need it, and how can you motivate them when you’re creating the content?

Don’t overcomplicate it

(4:50) I think sometimes people over-engineer learning. And they use a lot of buzzwords because people are saying and they read it in an industry publication or whatever. I think sometimes we can overcomplicate it.

It’s nice to make it complicated because then we’re seen as valuable. You know, it’s like all these words that nobody else knows. 

But really, a lot of it comes down to common sense. There’s something that you’re trying to do. There’s a reason there is a training. What is the reason? What are you trying to accomplish? Is it a behavior change, is informational. Like, what are you looking to do, outcomes, learning objectives, whatever you want to call them, learning goals. And so, we’re trying to change behavior. Do something.

Know what success looks like before you start

(8:55) So when I go in and talk to clients, I’m always asking them that. Like at the end of this for you to say, “This was worth it.” What does that look like? And a lot of times they don’t even know. They’re like, “We don’t know. We just know we need to check this box.” And I’m like, “Okay, we need to have a deeper conversation here.” Because otherwise we’re setting up everyone for potential failure.

And so I think it’s them thinking about, once again, the audience. It’s thinking about why we’re meeting. Like, what are the things that they think they need? 

Visuals enhance learning (but use ‘em right)

(16:17) We’re in a bullet point using emoji sending, Instagram scrolling, ever distracted society. We are an image society these days, and people want to see it quickly.

(17:22) I think the images you choose and videos you choose should apply to the overall message and the overall goal of the content. And if you’re creating videos, you do have to still focus on that attention span piece. ‘Cause nobody’s going to want to sit down and watch an hour-long video on how to do something. You need to break it up. Break it up, give them resources they can use, look at job aids while they’re watching the video, things like that. So yeah, I think it does always have to align with the overall goal that you’re trying to accomplish.

(20:25) So if you’re building e-learning or slides for presentation, rather than use like a cartoon guy that comes in that’s like, “Hello.” Is there a way that you can make that feel more relevant to the individuals in the space? And I think that if you can, it will hit better.

Get to know Kati

Expanding her side hustle into a thriving and profitable business in less than a year, Kati founded A Positive Adventure, a learning and development consulting firm. As a San Francisco-based founder, Kati more than tripled the company’s revenue YoY.

Kati has built world-class, award-winning training programs for companies like Instacart, Marine Layer,, Gannett, LivingSocial, and others.

Kati is a professionally trained and engaging public keynote speaker. She has spoken at industry conferences including Training Industry Conference & Expo, TLDC, Advanced Learning Institute, Women in Digital National Conference, UserTesting International Women’s

Month Event, ATD International Convention, has contributed content to publications such as, Building the Sales Machine, ATD, and been quoted in Fast Company on effective team-building practices.

Kati’s passion is motivating founders, employees and making learning stick by helping others reach their full potential through a positive and successful learning experience.

Want to watch the full video?

Watch the full, nearly 30-minute interview on TechSmith Academy for free. Get advice from Kati on various training and learning and development topics, including the importance of creating relevant content.

Watch Now

Ryan Knott

TechSmith Marketing Content Specialist and manager of the TechSmith Blog. More than 25 years of communications and marketing experience. Geek. Science and sci-fi enthusiast. Guitar player. On a mission to pet all the dogs. He/him. A few things about me: 1) Mildly (or not-so-mildly) obsessed with the movie Alien, 2) two rescue pibbles (Biggie and Reo), and 3) friend of ducks everywhere. Ask me about my seven+ years as a roller derby coach.

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