Brainformative Blog

Double Double Finish & Fulfill

The Brain Science of On-boarding: Part 2

The essential course on-boarding process.

  1. Good decision vs buyers remorse.
  2. What’s in it for ME!
  3. Focused bite sized challenges and WIN!.

What does on-boarding to a class look like?

It doesn’t matter the delivery method, whether it is e-learning or brick & mortar, the process remains the same.


We have all made a decision, paid money and then started to second guess the choice, hour, if not days, after. We make emotional decisions to buy and then our fears and our emotions tend to plague that choice.

There are 2 things people immediately look for when they buy a learning experience:

#1 Validation that they made the right choice


#2 A reason to opt-out so they can give up on their new, scary commitment and return to the way things were — before they signed up.

There is no way to compel people to learn. It doesn’t matter what corporate policy is. It doesn’t matter that the boss sent them to class on pain of firing. If the learner does not have willing skin in the learning game they can’t learn.

So to set the stage for a course the learner must have an on-boarding sequence that gives them 100% validation.

The more students are honored for their decision, the more the learning is crafted to affirm their learning choice, the closer to 100% validation people get. The greater the validation the greater the engagement.

Never forget, adults make their living with what is in their heads. As knowledge workers they get paid by the content of their minds and they are ruthless in how they allocate mental energy. If they waste their brains too much and too often it will likely result in losing a house, a car or their kids going hungry.

Does that sound melodramatic?

It’s not.

Adults must be affirmed that their choice to spend time and mental energy will reward them with higher performance and more valuable outcomes. If the value proposition falters adults vote with their feet and go do things that have a greater ROI.


As soon as the learner enters the learning environment ask them to identify what they want to get out of the course. A What’s in it for Me or “WIFFM” wall is an ideal first activity.

Find a blank piece of wall, hang a big poster sized paper with the acronym WIFFM across the top with the instructions: What two things do you want to get out of this course. Write them on a Post-It for everyone to see.

Online, a similar exercise can be to post a WIFFM statement in a Facebook group. (BTW: this is not ideal because Facebook is the single biggest distracting force on the planet. A better choice is a self-curated forum, but if you don’t have one of those, FB works in a pinch.)


What is the core of your learning content? What is the primary outcome that the learner wants to achieve?

For example in our new course, Death by Bullet Point . . . No More! (Foundations) the core learning event is to stop killing people with boring tedious presentations filled with bullet points. Therefore t,he first action the learner must take is to decide which presentation they need to work on.

Considering that thought leaders, speakers and decision makers likely have dozens of presentations it can be a rather daunting task to decide which one to use. Plus people tend to resist messing with things they have created.

So to get them moving towards their ultimate goal, the first bite-sized wins are:

  1. Making a decision on which multimedia file they want to work on.
  2. OPEN that presentation.
  3. Change the title to [{your title}]_Brain-friendly.


Instead of encountering potential overwhelm over which presentation they want to use, and the resistance tied to changing a piece of “artwork” the on-boarding sequence walks them through, in bite sized chunks, actions that frees the learner to begin the course.

These seemingly small, even trivial actions, are in fact small wins that primes the learner to treat the new slide deck as a working template they can edit. Which is exactly what we ask them to do next.

The next quick win is: Move your introductions side, credentials slide, and housekeeping slide to around the 10th position in the deck.

For some people this is a huge challenge because that early content, while mostly useless to the learner, is really a crutch to get the presenter’s game face on.

Presenters don’t know how to start, so a monologue about trivialities gets them headed in the “right” direction. But it is in fact the wrong direction. People just don’t care about your credentials, introductory slides, and vaguely resent being formally told where the bathroom is and other “Housekeeping” topics. Getting rid of this extraneous cognitive load is a massive step toward learning clarity.

Now consider what this on-boarding segment represents. In less than 9 minutes from starting the course, learners have made crucial decisions and completed three important edits to their presentation. They have already had a series of small wins and the value proposition is obvious.

My example is in the e learning space but you can apply this same action cycle to the start of a brick and mortar class. From the moment learners enter the room have them engage in a learning activity.

Do not let them sit and get out their computer or chit chat or otherwise waste time until the “class gets started.” If the class is billed as a “hands on class,” students should have their hands on SOMETHING tied to the central purpose of the class within minutes of entering the classroom. The learning started the moment the doors opened. Don’t wait for laggers (which penalizes those who were on time) but rigidly choreograph exactly what the learner should do to drive experience forward.

Now, go create an extraordinary learning on-boarding sequence for your learners.

John Immel

To see the whole on-boarding sequence in real time enroll in Death by Bullet Point . . . No More! (Foundations) then go to the What’s in it for Me Disqus thread and tell us 2 things you want to get out of the course.