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Learn How I Helped Dianne Launch Her First Interactive Story In Just 35 Days

 
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Meet Dianne Hope — she used to design glorified PowerPoints, which were basically “information dumps” with a few interactive screens where you click.

Dianne has been a successful elearning freelancer for more than seven years, and has really honed her design and Articulate Storyline skills.

What she didn't know was how to get out of the rut and routine of doing the same thing every project and propose more challenging and meaningful solutions.

Let's break it down:

Who? Dianne Hope

Problem: Lost motivation as a freelancer due to an inability to offer anything other than limp rapid elearning solutions.

Solution: Join Interactive Storytelling Accelerator (my coaching program that shows you how to find fulfillment through interactive storytelling, not elearning design).

Did it work? Yup. Dianne just designed an interactive story for her client in 35 days!

One of the most important areas of the switch to interactive storytelling that I helped Dianne with was how to integrate client feedback.

In this video, Dianne and I will discuss:

  • What motivated her to make the switch from elearning design to interactive storytelling.
  • How she was able to work through difficult feedback from clients.
  • Her strategy for taking her career to the next level—the mindset to adopt.
  • AND... the tell-tale sign clients and stakeholders are onboard for interactive storytelling.

TRANSCRIPTION

Anna:
Hello, everybody. Anna Sabramowicz here. Thank you so much for joining me. So today I've got a fabulous guest with me. Her name is Dianne Hope, and she's one of the members of our Interactive Storytelling Accelerator program, and she has a fantastic journey.

Anna:
And I really wanted for you guys to listen to her today and glean some of the lessons that it takes to, when you're at a certain point in your career, to actually take your skillset to the next level, because I think a lot of us, what happens is we get a little bit frustrated, but maybe we look for something that is a quick fix like, "Ah, what's this? What's going to happen? What can I do? What can I get?"

Anna:
And Dianne, I think, can give us some insight into what it takes to take yourself to a new skillset, to a new level, and then evolve from there. So Dianne, thank you so much for being here with me today.

Dianne:
Thank you, Anna.

Anna:
Okay. So basically this is a barrage of questions for Dianne so that I can get as much value from her for you guys, and so that you guys can learn what it takes to craft your own interactive stories. So first off, Dianne, you joined us in March, around March this year, right?

Dianne:
Yes I did.

Anna:
So your interactive story, how long did it take you to launch it then? Was it-

Dianne:
Oh, goodness. It was all so quick, wasn't it?

Anna:
Yeah.

Dianne:
I already had my client and I knew that's what I wanted to do, and I just needed your help. And it's actually been released in the organization now, so it was a matter of no more than five or six weeks from start to finish.

Anna:
Wow. Awesome. Awesome. That's fantastic. So, okay. So there was something that resonated with you about interactive storytelling. Can you tell me a little bit about how you were doing work before you discovered interactive stories?

Dianne:
I guess like most people who are doing e-learning, it's just a glorified PowerPoint. There's a few interactive screens where you click. But basically, it was just dumping content into screens, having some learning objectives at the beginning, and summing them up at the end, and learners are bored with that.

Dianne:
So the more I started to realize that, the more I started to realize that someone has to change this, someone has to do something different, because this has been going on for... I've been a freelance developer for more than seven years, and in the beginning you can make things interesting with engaging images and stuff, but ultimately it's the same. It's the same. So that was my thought process.

Anna:
So you're working on things where you're dressing up content, essentially, right?

Dianne:
Yes.

Anna:
So how does that affect the work that you produce? How does that affect you?

Dianne:
Well, you soon become bored with it, don't you? It's just, how can I find this any more interesting. There's nothing you can do. Improve your language skills, I suppose. And yeah, there was just no challenge in it anymore.

Anna:
Cool. I like that you said there was no challenge in it, because I think, for myself even, I felt like there was a point that I reached that I felt like I hit a little bit of a plateau like, "What's next? How can I be more inventive here, right, to make this work?" So what was it that moved you to take action that you were like, "Ah, I need more challenge", but what was it that you were like, "Okay, this is it. I wanted to do storytelling."

Dianne:
I think because it was different. And I think I could see, particularly in things like the broken coworker, that people were really liking that. And from my perspective as a developer, I didn't see that as a complicated thing to develop. Ha, ha. I wasn't right about that. Yeah, so I guess that was it.

Dianne:
I really like that it's different. People are obviously engaged with it. That went viral is knowing when you created it, you know how many people have looked at that and continue to look at it after all this time. So it just kept popping up in my mind.

Anna:
Cool. Cool. So, and I saw that you also use it as inspiration for some articles just recently. So that's awesome. Thank you.

Dianne:
I did. Yeah, yeah, and that's a process I go through with everything in my learning is reflecting on what I've looked at and putting it down so other people can maybe learn from that as well. And in that process, I learn.

Anna:
It's interesting because when I looked at your work, when I looked at your samples, your portfolio pieces, and the things that you share with the community, the [inaudible 00:05:06], everything that you do is, like you just said, it's followed with a deconstruction of your thought process and why you did that. And I think that's so amazing.

Anna:
So if anybody wants to learn more about how Dianne thinks basically, how a designer, a great designer, thinks is where you get your inspiration, all those things are in there. And I really liked that and I think it's cool. How does it help you to do that reflection when you're crafting your pieces?

Dianne:
A lot of the time when I'm developing, I do it quite quickly because I've been doing it for so long now, but to go back and actually put down how I did it and what inspiration I used, it really cements the whole process and makes the next project easier because that's in your mind then. Yeah.

Anna:
That's an excellent learning strategy, I think, because I think a lot of us are like, "Yeah, just get the next thing done, get it, get it, get it.", and then you never have the time to actually step back and think about what you did and why you did it and then see, hey, what worked for me and why it was?

Dianne:
And sometimes I even put reflections about, this could have been done better because I could have done it like this, or I could have added this, or whatever. So it's also, what do you call that after project, you debrief?

Anna:
Yeah.

Dianne:
That takes a lot of vulnerability to do that, to put down those thoughts and hey, that's not perfect. It could have been better. But I just think I learn, maybe other people looking at it learn.

Anna:
Yeah, that's huge. We actually had a project once where it went so bad, but we were like, "Okay, we're just going to list all the things that we didn't appreciate in it." And everybody on the team had to put a smiley face or a sad face beside the things that they... And actually, that was the first step because, like you said, not everybody's ready for that and it does take a lot of vulnerability to actually admit that wasn't optimal. Protect yourself from that.

Anna:
So broken coworker resonates for you and you're like, "Okay, this looks like a doable, I can do this." Right?

Dianne:
Yeah.

Anna:
So what was something that would show you that if you produced something that would actually show you that you had achieved this goal, which is, it sounds like, more engagement or it sounds like something that would engage people more deeply.

Dianne:
Can you rephrase that question?

Anna:
Yeah, sorry.

Dianne:
I'm not use. So what are you asking?

Anna:
Yeah. What would it be, for you, if you're looking in your mind, what would be for you an indication of success? You were like, "Oh yes. Okay. I've mastered it. I've challenged it. I own this process now." What would that look like for you?

Dianne:
I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So I like to understand what I've done and make it the best it can be. So I'm pretty hard on myself. And I guess with the Interactive Storytelling group, what I started to realize was I'm too hard on myself, and most of the stuff I do produce is okay, but the members of the group were so awesome with giving feedback, and positive comments, and things, which reinforced that I don't need to be so hard, and what I've actually produced is okay, and actually quite good.

Anna:
So broken coworker, yes, been out there, but how did you first hear about Interactive Storytelling Accelerator?

Dianne:
Probably through Facebook. I'm not a big social media person, but I do watch and I like to watch and learn from things on Facebook and what's the latest things that are happening. And I guess I was just watching your engaging your learning posts and ended up registering in one of your webinars, didn't I?

Dianne:
And then, watched all of that all the way through, and I think that really got me hooked. I think the consistency of your posts and the different messages you were giving were really, really engaging and really motivating to try and do that.

Anna:
Cool. Yeah. I remember. I think I saw one of your posts on, I think it was Facebook, and you were like, "I took notes.", and you had notes everywhere, and I was like, "Okay, she's serious. She's listened. She didn't just skim this thing. She took the notes to heart.", and I love that you were like trying to apply.

Dianne:
I did take the notes. Remember all the notes were nice and neat, and then I sent you another picture and they were all screwed up. I'm like...

Anna:
That's right. I think there was glass of wine.

Dianne:
A bit frustrated.

Anna:
Yeah.

Dianne:
Yeah. Glass of wine. That's right.

Anna:
That's awesome. So what was it for you that ultimately said, "Okay, I'm going to give this a try. I'm going to work. I'm going to bite the bullet and not just consume the info, actually jump in and join."? What was it for you that got you over the hill there?

Dianne:
I think I had the perfect, I won't say the perfect client, but the perfect topic and project that I thought would work.

Anna:
Yeah.

Dianne:
And I'd already started talking to them about using interactive storytelling, and they were interested and I really wanted to make this project to success and there was quite a tight timeframe. So I think after I talked to you, I'm like, "I just really need that support.", because I like to think I can do things myself, but ultimately, we can all do with support, especially if we're under pressure to produce something.

Anna:
Yeah. Okay.

Dianne:
So the perfect, the perfect topic, the perfect project.

Anna:
Cool. It's interesting though, because I think that if somebody else had a different mindset, they could have been like, "Oh, this is a perfect topic and a perfect project for PowerPoint. Next. Click next slide." Right? And they probably would have gone with that, but you were like, "Nope, this is different.", or "I'm going to push myself here and push something different." So that's really cool.

Anna:
Now, how did you feel when you first joined the community and started working on your interactive story? Were you excited, scared, skeptical, reluctant? What was going through your mind? Were you... ?

Dianne:
All of those. I was excited.

Anna:
Oh, I shouldn't have [crosstalk 00:11:45].

Dianne:
I was excited but some of the members of that group had already started their projects, obviously, and we're further down the track and it was all a bit overwhelming for me at first, and so much information, so many resources, so much happening in that group, I just had to focus on what I was achieving and there's so many steps and just one step at a time.

Dianne:
So while it's great to throw in all those resources, yeah, I think just making sure that I focused on what I was trying to achieve and asking for feedback on what I was trying to achieve was really my main goal.

Anna:
So what was different about the program than you expected?

Dianne:
What was different? I don't know what I expected, to be honest.

Anna:
That is honest, yeah.

Dianne:
Yeah. It's a lot more resources than I expected, a lot more breaking down of other projects or things that are available to the public that you can analyze and leverage off, copy, steal, a lot of that, that I do in my own way, but not to the depth that this group does it. And I think that the theory in the group of use what works, if you see something that works.

Anna:
Yeah.

Dianne:
There's a template there. It makes it a lot easier to produce something if you've got something to copy. So I guess I hadn't expected that. I expected, yeah, that it would be all "Well, there you go. This is how you do it. Go and do it.", sort of thing.

Anna:
So there was better depth than you thought there would be?

Dianne:
Absolutely. Every step of the way there is information to help you get through that stage and improve what you've done, and move on, and yeah, a whole lot more than I expected.

Anna:
So you said, okay, you come in, there's a lot of info and you're working through your project, and your goal is to really focus on what you're doing and get feedback on what you're doing so that you can move systematically there.

Anna:
While you're doing this, so this is stressful, your timeline is tight, you're getting feedback, you're pushing your paradigms on your customers, really.

Dianne:
Yeah.

Anna:
It's cool that way. So tell me, how were you supported on this journey?

Dianne:
At every stage I was able to reach out for feedback and reach out on guidance, and even after I-

Anna:
How did that feel? Because we usually work alone, right?

Dianne:
Yeah.

Anna:
How was that?

Dianne:
That was amazing because when you're trying something new, you don't know if you've got it right or not. So you could guess, and I think I said to you before I joined the group, "I could do this on my own, but would it be as good a product as it would have been if I hadn't have had the support?"

Dianne:
So that felt amazing, and there was certain times, so when I got some client feedback and they pretty much scrapped everything I'd done, and I just put my hand up in the group and said, "This is what my client's saying I can't do.", and I was really shocked at what I could salvage out of that client feedback and turn it around.

Dianne:
And that was a real turning point in the project because I saw things from a different perspective. Rather than being negative about what my client said I can't do, what they were actually doing was improving my end product. So with the support of those in the community who had already been through that, that was awesome.

Anna:
Cool. And I was glad I was part of that process with you.

Dianne:
Yes.

Anna:
So, okay. Tell me, what are the hardest things about starting and sticking to being an interactive storyteller and actually pushing through? You've got people who are resistant, who are scared about this new approach they don't understand, necessarily. Tell me, what was the hardest thing about it?

Dianne:
The hardest thing, I think it's all about showing your client your vision and communicating that vision. And when it's your first project, that was hard. Yeah. I was pretty sure. Well, one thing was this client hadn't done any e-learning before, so I just kept telling myself, "I know more about this than they do, and I know more about interactive storytelling than they do."

Dianne:
So I was just really focused on that vision and keeping it simple enough that they could understand, that there was a process we'd go through, and just kept reinforcing that process. Yeah.

Anna:
So when, when you have, okay, let's say you're getting feedback that scraps your great ideas, right?

Dianne:
Yeah.

Anna:
How do you overcome that? Because I know a lot of us struggle with that, where we basically lie down and say, "Okay, whatever they want. I'm not up for the fight." So how do you overcome that obstacle?

Dianne:
I guess it depends on the client, but I think communication with the client is the big key and picking your battles too. There were some things that they were very certain that they wanted in a certain way that I just let them have.

Dianne:
But I just kept reinforcing that to make the storytelling aspect of this course work, that there was a structure that we needed to stick to, and within that structure, we could be a bit flexible, but there were certain things that needed to be there, and they were really understanding about that.

Dianne:
So I think being knowledgeable about what you're communicating to them, but also being understanding that they have a goal as well, and they have certain things that they want to get across. So yeah, just like you would be with any client, just listening to them as well.

Anna:
So it's cool. You said you have some parameters around, I'm crafting an interactive story for you guys, so these elements have to be in place. I'm willing to negotiate on some things, right? Yeah. Okay, cool.

Dianne:
Absolutely.

Anna:
I love that. And do you feel like it made a better product as a result of them coming on board, but with making it partially their own as well?

Dianne:
Absolutely. I think that was one of the turning points too when we started to see, or when I started to get their feedback on, say, a scenario with the character that was in this story and they started to fill in some details that I hadn't realized were happening in the workplace.

Dianne:
And I started to say to them, "That is so good. That's going to make this much more engaging, much more relevant to your learners.", and they started to get really excited about it. They were referring to the character by her name. And that's when I really felt, "Oh my goodness, this is going to work for them as well."

Dianne:
Before that they were like, "Okay, this is what you want. This is what we'll give you. "But yeah, they were onboard once they started referring to the character by her name. That was it.

Anna:
Then you know you've won, right?

Dianne:
Yeah.

Anna:
Basically, right? Yeah. Totally. Because the feedback was never, "Hey, where can we put the manual in?" Right?

Dianne:
Exactly. Exactly. I just kept pushing about the emotion. Storytelling is all about getting people engaged with emotions. So relating to that character through the emotions and what she's going through. So it took them a long time to understand that because it's a very different concept.

Dianne:
Most organizations are used to click next e-learning and this was completely different for them. So top marks to this client as well, who put their trust in me as the developer and someone who had expertise in England and to know that this was going to work. So that was a big part of it as well.

Anna:
That's cool. And the fact that they went with the first project, interactive story.

Dianne:
I know.

Anna:
That's awesome. That's so huge.

Dianne:
I know.

Anna:
Yeah. They don't even know what's next. They don't even know. It's going to be awesome. So what would you suggest to anyone else dealing with the problems you faced?

Dianne:
Reach out, because there's people out there who have been successful in making e-learning a better experience, in going to that next level. It's so fulfilling as far as your career goes. When you've been doing e-learning for quite a few years, it's really nice to take it to that next level, but to do that with anything, I think, you need the support of people around you, so definitely reach out to others.

Dianne:
The members of the group are so willing to listen and offer advice, and it's not an easy situation to be in because all the projects in that group are different. There's some way-out topics there, but you always learn something.

Dianne:
Even you, Anna, when we have our strategy sessions, you learn stuff from the members as well, so you can never stop learning.

Anna:
It's fantastic. And like you said, it's interesting because we all have contexts, right? The same framework, but different contexts. Okay. So let's say somebody's just joining the Interactive Storytelling Accelerator. What's your one piece of advice for them?

Dianne:
Be open, be willing to be, not judged, but be willing to accept that people want you to succeed, so don't hang onto anything when you're coming in there. Just be really open to what's happening and accepting peoples' help.

Anna:
Cool. That's actually, that's huge. Thank you so much. Okay. So where can people learn more about you, your work, and maybe get in touch?

Dianne:
So I have a portfolio, an online e-portfolio, it's called Dianne Hope's e-portfolio.

Anna:
That's awesome.

Dianne:
And I started that a long time ago and it's really a place where I gather all of my learning, I guess, about how I develop e-learning, and what I use, and the tools I use, and the inspiration I draw from. There's a lot of samples up there of projects I've produced, no client stuff, because of course you can't share client stuff, but often I'll reproduce something from a client project if there's been learning in it.

Dianne:
And I guess from the start of that to the most recent portfolio projects up there, I look back sometimes and I go, "I have come a long way." So it's even, for me, a good place to go and go, "I have put in a lot of effort, I have learned, I have improved." And now the storytelling aspect is going to take it again to that next level.

Anna:
That's so cool. Yeah. And I will add those links underneath the video so everybody can go there, check it out, and peruse, and learn from you, and learn from your experience because, to be honest, I think a lot of us, instructional design is one thing, but having an eye for visual style, an eye for how the user experience, that is another layer, and I think people can learn a lot from you there. So. Awesome. Thank you.

Dianne:
Yeah, That's been my passion up until now, is that visual engagement, but you need it, definitely need it, but it's not enough now. I think if you want to be in e-learning for the long haul, you need to go to that next level, definitely.

Anna:
Cool. And you're getting there, man. It's awesome. I'm excited. I'm excited for the next one. And the minute you have a portfolio piece that's interactive storytelling-based we are sharing that with the world too.

Dianne:
Yeah, working on it.

Anna:
No pressure. I know I've been tagging, hassling, you about that. Awesome. So thank you so much, Dianne, for taking the time to talk to me, for sharing your lessons and your journey. I think that a lot of people don't know that it takes work to take yourself there, and that it takes that systematic letting go of some of the beliefs that you have and being, like you said, you've been almost like our vulnerability ambassador in the group. That was huge. So thank you.

Dianne:
What was that I put up? Vulnerability, 100%, procrastination, zero.

Anna:
Yeah. Oh yeah. And I think-

Dianne:
You can't be in that spot for very long though, Anna.

Anna:
I know, I know, that's totally true. That'll drain you. That'll drain you. But I think one of the coolest things is that seeing you were very open with sharing, not only your progress, but just your evolution of, "Hey, I'm getting this, what do you guys think? Next steps?" And for anybody who's in our community, they can actually see from week-to-week, how much Dianne would take feedback during the sessions, take feedback, implement, implement, implement, implement, and just iterate and experiment with things.

Anna:
And that, to me, is absolutely one of the best ways to build a great learning, and you have a community to do that with, that you're not putting something out there and going, "This is it. It's my masterpiece." You realize there's this process, right? And-

Dianne:
They're iterative, that's right. And it's also a matter of trusting that when you put something out there that you're going to get the feedback that's going to improve it and just not judging that at all, just saying, "What do you think, and what can I do to improve it?", and trusting that the feedback you get help with that. So I don't know where else you can get that.

Anna:
Yeah. Good. Glad. All right. So, fabulous. Thank you so much. All right.

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