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How Luis’ Career Got A Major Boost After Convincing A Long-Term Client To Give Interactive Storytelling A Try

 

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Meet Luis Larrea — he used to design point-and-click elearning — glorified PowerPoints.

Luis knew how to help his clients build elearning and has been doing so for the past 15 years.

What he didn’t know was how to propose new solutions that would better meet the needs of younger employees (who expect higher standards of engagement).

Let's break it down:

Problem: Lacking the knowledge to propose more engaging solutions.

Solution: Join Interactive Storytelling Accelerator (my 6-week training program that shows you how to build a unique elearning portfolio piece by leveraging interactive storytelling, not PowerPoint).

Did it work? Yep. Luis recently convinced a long-term client to switch over to the interactive storytelling model — and Luis now has a portfolio piece that represents the kind of work he wants to do.

Here’s Luis celebrating his win in our community —

After joining the Interactive Storytelling Accelerator, Luis’s goal was to absorb all he could until he was confident enough to pitch interactive storytelling, and break the cycle of mundane elearning design.

Now, one problem he faced initially was how to string content together into a well structured story.

Previous attempts at interactive storytelling left him with a whole bunch of scenarios that had nothing to do with one another, and were not engaging.

I explained to him how the objective of any storyteller is to elicit emotion, and showed him how to inject Hollywood magic into the process to achieve a structure that captivates audiences.

After he understood a basic foundation of storytelling, he was able to quickly craft a short prototype that clearly showed his vision and easily won over his client.

And yeah, you read that right.

Luis convinced his client by using a short prototype. This is something we teach, so you can get stakeholder buy-in sooner than later. A serious time saver.

After applying our interactive storytelling framework, and with his portfolio piece to boot, you can bet Luis’s career has taken a serious shift toward more creativity, engagement, and fulfillment.

So, do you want to steer elearning projects away from glorified PowerPoints and towards interactive storytelling, like Luis?

If you do — Click here to see if and how we may be able to help you.

-Anna

TRANSCRIPTION

Anna:
Hello, everybody. Anna Sabramowicz here. Welcome. Today I have a special guest with me, Luis Larrea, and he's one of the members of our interactive storytelling accelerator. Yes, I practiced that a little bit. And what I wanted to do is dig into his journey. He's launching not one, but two interactive stories. It's all planned. We're going to get into it, but I want to hear about his story, his challenges, what he's learned along the way, and maybe you can take away some nuggets from his journey. And it might inspire you to craft your own interactive story. But thank you so much for being here. It's so awesome.

Luis:
Thank you, glad to help.

Anna:
So Luis, give us a little bit of context, like before you even joined, how did you get into this? What are you doing and where are you?

Luis:
Well, I live in [inaudible 00:00:52], Ecuador. I got into e-learning about more than 15 years ago. I didn't do the design. I did most of the selling back then, but about five years ago, I went on my own and had to do the design and the selling. And I kept doing what I did before. I mean the same type of course that I did before, which back then was very, the technical, the high tech and everything like that. That's what you used to do back then. But now with all the new technologies, all the new interactivity with going on, those kind of courses became boring.

Luis:
Most of my clients, they still request those courses, but I can see that they don't feel like those are the best options. And then the new workforce, they're younger, they are used to quicker things. They're used to more interactivity. They don't like to read long ... Basically we used to call them glorified PowerPoints on the web. So I started looking about, yeah, maybe more than a year ago, to some options. I looked into gamification. I looked into storytelling. I saw some videos on YouTube on the web, and then I found your podcast.

Luis:
I started listening to what you were saying, and it caught my attention because it seemed very ... It could be what I was looking for to show something different, not to make stories are compelling, that one take two hours to complete, but will get to the point of what you needed to people to learn. So that's when I started investigating. I found you, but then I joined the ISA because I did try to sell an interactive story before this, but it didn't go well. There was so much things you need to think about. It looks simple. It's not that complicated, but you have to know what to do. It's not just once you see the final product, you think that you can do it, but if you don't have all the backgrounds, it's not the same.

Anna:
And we should really get into that. Because the thing is, you were already sold on interactive stories and you said so many interesting things like this idea that audiences now aren't expecting to read a lot. They want to be engaged, and it's cool, the idea of story to engage them deeply, but not in the long time. You're not taking two hours to tell some sort of long story about something that's happening. It's actually quite quick, but it's still storytelling, which is what I like. And you know what you said, that the goal is that the end product looks simple and it's not intimidating for the end user. And so when we look at the final thing, it might be like, "Oh yeah, that's pretty simple to do." So let's dig into that a little. First off, tell us about the interactive story that you're working on right now. I think it's, final stages. Yeah?

Luis:
Yes. I have this bank that I've been doing e-learning for them for maybe five years now. And I've always done again, the glorified PowerPoints, a lot of texts, a lot of ... I mean, coming to an activity point and click courses for a while. Last year I did something new. I did a little more animations. I did a little bit more, tried to add some comic book style images to it, and they liked that. I mean, they started to see that there are other things we could do, but I still felt like it wasn't enough.

Luis:
So when they proposed to me that we redo a course, they need to change every year because they have to add new regulations, it's a compliance course basically, they need to add new regulations every year, so we've done it. I think this is like the fourth or fifth year that we've done it. I said, "Well, we can't do what we're doing before." I mean [inaudible 00:05:03]. I think people are really tired. I mean, the first one was probably like three hours long. Then the second one's probably like two hours long.

Luis:
The next one was probably like an hour and 45, and this one was going to be maybe like an hour and a half. I said, "No, we can't do this anymore." Since I've been already in the ISA group for maybe like four or five months, I said, "Well, I think this is the time I have enough knowledge to propose this in a way that I won't be turned down." Because again, I try to do this for the same client last year, and the way I proposed it, I was turned down because it was just not an adequate story. It didn't follow all the things we've learned now in the ISA.

Luis:
So I said, "Well, you want to do this? Let me propose you something different, something that I think you're going to like because if you liked what I did last time, which was not story, but it was different, you're going to like this." I said, "Give me a couple of days, I'm going to wipe up. I'm going to build a small prototype." And I did just one little scenario, just very short, and they liked it. They really enjoyed it. They said, "This is wonderful. We want to do this," and they gave me the go ahead.

Anna:
So what do you think was different between the last time you pitched it and this time that you pitched it, because they're the same? What's different about ...?

Luis:
Well, I mean, I have so much more knowledge in how to make the story interactive, how to make a compelling story. I mean, before I just grabbed a whole bunch of scenarios that had nothing to do with one with the other. I didn't know that you have to make them, like make it a conflict at the beginning that you want to solve, make them set it up in a way that people are involved with the ... They want to help the character in the story. I just had some random stories one after the other with questions that were not engaging. So this time I had all the background, even though it was a really short story that I did, a short scenario that I did for them, I think you had all the elements that you want in the story so that they saw it and they say, "Well, this is what we want."

Anna:
That's really cool. It sounds also like you ... I mean, they don't see all of that other stuff that you have underneath, all the things, all the considerations that you're making, that you're putting into it. But it also sounds like you were a confident. You were like, "I know this is going to work because of this." It sounds like you came in with a little bit more [inaudible 00:07:40].

Luis:
Yeah. I mean, I knew this time I had the knowledge, and I want to have the group behind me in case I got some questions or something that I didn't know the exact answer, I could rely on the group to help me-

Anna:
Yeah, that's right.

Luis:
Solve that.

Anna:
I remember you posted in the group something to the effect of, "I pitched a bank. They said, yes. I'm going to have some questions." So I remember that it was fun. That was a big win, considering, yeah, you've been working with them for this long. But also it comes down to also you saying, "Hey." It's interesting because obviously they trust you and they want to work with you. And what I think is so interesting is that a lot of people say, "Oh, well, my customers are used to a certain kind of thing. Therefore, if I pitched them something new, they're never going to say yes." And people use that as an excuse, but for you, it was almost like this point where you're like, "We got to do something different, and listen, I do good work for you, so trust me a little here."

Luis:
Yes. I mean, they've been doing that for a while, so they also started to feel that they needed a change.

Anna:
Yes.

Luis:
I mean, I'm not the only provider they have, but I think I've got enough confidence in them or they have enough confidence in me that I was able to propose something that they accepted.

Anna:
Yeah. That's cool. Now, okay, so you listened to the podcast. I'm just going to get into what made you decide to join this program? There's lots of programs out there. Why this one?

Luis:
Well, for one, I've seen the Broken Co-Worker out there. I really liked it. Your podcast was very interesting, and you have interviews with other people. There were some short podcasts where it was just like a little idea or there were longer podcasts that gave you more in-depth into what you were doing. And then you started making also those videos on Facebook. I saw a few of those, and I don't know, it just felt like it was the right time, for one. And then you have the expertise to really help us out.

Anna:
But you didn't have a project. You were just like, "I'm going to jump on."

Luis:
I didn't have a specific project back then, but I mean, I knew I wanted to do this for my future projects. And I know I have to, I mean, I have another project that you mentioned at the beginning. That's more of my portfolio project, and I knew I had to make one of those too. So I wanted to show something other than the point and click projects that I've done before in that portfolio.

Anna:
I see. So you had that vision. It wasn't like, "Oh, I have this project. I'm going to do it." It was like you just wanted to, when it came up, you wanted to get, you knew you wanted to get good at this.

Luis:
Yes. I knew I had to somehow stand out from the rest of the people doing this here. And then if you're going to look in learning, there are a lot of people that they basically use point and clicks or do point and click for those very fancy animations, but it's basically the same thing, and there's a way that I can be able to differentiate myself. I don't think anybody right now is doing things like this here in Ecuador and actually this is the way to go ahead, add some value to what I'm doing.

Anna:
Okay. So when you started learning how to do interactive storytelling and joined our community, were there things about it that surprised you or were you skeptical? Or is there anything that was not as awesome as you thought? Tell me about that process.

Luis:
Well, I don't think I was skeptical because I have seen, again, the Broken Co-Worker, and I've searched in the internet, and I've seen other stories. So I knew that was the right way to go. I think the part that's most difficult to me, not because the process is hard, it's the first stage. You know, get into all the information that the client gives you and coming up with the story, coming out with what we call the beats in the story. That at the end, once it's done, it seems simple, but it takes me ... I usually have to think about going for maybe like a week, and really think about that, and then walk away, and then come back. And then at the end, the process is simple.

Luis:
It's not that complicated, but adapting it to whatever circumstance you need to because ... A lot of the questions that I had is ... Well, my stuff that I do is more compliance because sometimes, you see these kind of courses for touchy-feely kind of ... So it seems easier. I mean, it seems easier to come up with those stories in those cases. And it seems harder to come up for stories in compliance courses. But at the end, I think they are both difficult. It's just once you see the final product, if you don't know what's been going on before, it seems easy, but I think both of them are difficult. And with the help of the community and seeing what other people are doing, you start up and experience that you gain, you start up coming up with new ideas with different types of courses.

Anna:
It's cool. You said you have to step away and just let it ... like you got to think about it, right? Because it's a process at all, I think, to be able to then distill it to what's going to work for me because we are-

Luis:
For me, that's the hardest part. I mean, coming up with the story, the character is something that's trying to link all the other scenarios together in a way that make sense in a way that, like we've seen, it keeps the student interested the whole way, and that it adapts to what you want to teach. I mean, again, compliance courses sometimes just regulations, just follow this article, and follow this law, and coming up with a story that fits. I think the best option is through the interviews that can show us how to do. You know, talking to the practitioners, that's a way to come up with the link between the story and the regulations or the law that you want to teach.

Anna:
Yeah. Because with your course, you were inundated with content. There's no lack of it. Okay. So obviously you're still excited about interactive stories because you're crafting the next one, which is awesome.

Luis:
Yes, it's my portfolio piece, which I've mutated somewhat from what my first idea to what I'm doing now.

Anna:
But we're cool with that, right? At this time, I think we understand that there's like an evolution of our ideas and we're okay to kind of scrap them and say, "Hey." Like as you think about it, it adjusts. What do you think about that?

Luis:
Oh, yes, for sure. I mean, even if you spend a lot of time in it, if you were able to refine the idea or come up with a new concept that's going to make it better, you have to.

Anna:
You have to let go [crosstalk 00:00:15:15].

Luis:
Yeah, you have to let go of the whole idea. Otherwise, you're going to spend all the time and then not be as useful as a new one is going to be.

Anna:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). That's cool. I'm looking forward to that one. It's a great concept. So as far as this, the interactive story that you're doing for clients, can you tell us a little bit about the one that you crafted, like the theme and who you're targeting?

Luis:
Yeah. Well, this bank needs to ... It's a compliance course. So everybody from the person in the reception desk to the manager has to know about this. They do have some introduction before this. I mean, it's not like this is the only class again on these topics. This is like the final class that intends to summarize everything or integrate everything into one package. Of course, people that are newly hired get more information than people that have been there for a while, but this is the way that we needed to craft the story, is to make it so that they see the importance that it's all this seemingly boring regulations and rules have on the bank and have on their own jobs. So it's basically all security has to do with different areas of security, monitoring on the ring, physical security in the bank. Now that we have everybody's working from home, they have a lot of cyber security themes going on, so integrating those into one cohesive story was what we needed to do.

Anna:
It's awesome. I think you got some really fun contextual situations into that, into your product. And even what I found is cool is that even though I'm not really interested in the bank security, but they were fun. You included so many fun elements that it was ... There's certain things that were like, not only was it contextual, but also there was a bit of novelty, visual novelty, and a little bit of fun, I think. Did you enjoy making this project more than the other things?

Luis:
Oh, for sure. Yes, yes. I mean, I got to interview a lot of people in the bank to get information and then coming up with the stories. Yeah, the idea was to make them a little bit fun so that people enjoy it. I think they're going to be surprised when they get to take this class and see it is nothing like what they've been doing before.

Anna:
Pleasantly so, yeah, totally. That'll be fun. Yes, of course, because I know everybody has this context that in my country or my organization we're so behind, but to be honest with you, I think banks anywhere in the world looking at that experience will be like, "Wow, that's awesome, and we want that."

Luis:
Yeah. The project's in Spanish, so if it's in the banking, in another language I have to translate.

Anna:
That's right. We've been having to do a little bit of that for [inaudible 00:18:11]. As far as being a part of the accelerator program, what were some of the things that you found professionally or personally most beneficial for you?

Luis:
Oh, well, in the area of stories, having the process laid out and having a process from someone that's worked on this for a while, has experience, so it's not the same as, again, as reading a book. I mean, it could be a book, there might be 10 different books on the topic. But we were able to talk with the community, to be able to talk with you and Ryan, and get your feedback, get your ideas, and then ideas from other people in the group, I think we all come from different backgrounds. I'm not an instructional designer. I've read a lot about it, but I'm a computer engineer, so nothing to do with this.

Luis:
But give you the confidence to know that you are becoming an expert in this area. So I think that's the main thing. I can go out and now say, "Well, I am an expert in stories, interactive stories." I have the experience. I have the theory or all the information behind it, the process behind it. And I've crafted stories, and I've helped other people craft their stories, and they have helped me craft the story. So I think it gives me a .... If I did it by myself, I'd still probably be learning how to interview the practitioners right now.

Anna:
Awesome. Cool. So a little bit of a headstart, but also leveraging it. So now, if you could give advice to anybody joining the program, like one key takeaway that you think would be most valuable, what would that be?

Luis:
Well, don't be afraid of what we were saying before of coming up with an idea, tossing it out if it doesn't work. Proposing it to the community, learning from, using your experience and the experience of the group. I mean, we have some people there that will just join or people that have been there since the beginning, and then we can all propose. I mean, we can all give you a good feedback on what you're doing. Interactive stories are here to stay. I don't think this is a novelty. I mean, they've been around for ... You wrote Broken Co-Worker, I think, like 15, 10 years ago or something.

Anna:
Yeah.

Luis:
And they are going to be here. I think they're going to be more relevant in the future.

Anna:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). Cool. I like what you said about not being afraid to throw out ideas in the community, because I think that you have done this and everybody else's who's really leveled that up are the people who look at other people's work and critique it because, you know, that's how you get better, by pointing out other people's errors. And also I find that, I think everybody should know this, is that Luis is a person who takes that feedback seriously and is looking for it, actively looking for it. So I know that's how you've been with your projects is just, here's some stuff, here's some feedback. You'll show up on a live sessions, give me clarification. So that's a huge part of your success, I think, is being that so open to what you're doing, like in getting that feedback and being okay with letting go of some things.

Luis:
Well, the good thing I think that I liked the best of all the community ... Again, we have people with very different experiences, people that have been doing instructional design for years. And nobody's afraid to propose ideas as dumb as or as good as they seem, and nobody's giving feedback in a superior way. Everybody knows we're all there to learn, and we might be experts in one area, but we need help in this area. Or we know that we're just starting to learn our first steps in instruction, in interactive stories, and we need help, so we're not afraid to ask. I think you have developed a great community there.

Anna:
Oh, you're certainly a part of that development. I know that, yeah, so take some credit. So awesome. If people want to connect with you, work with you, where should they go?

Luis:
I think the best place is LinkedIn. I have my personal account there that you can find the link to my business webpage. I want to make it available there on LinkedIn. That's probably the best way to get in contact with me.

Anna:
Awesome. So what I'll do is I'll put the link underneath the video, so anybody can connect with you, reach out, maybe you work with you, especially if they're ... Hey, I don't think that ... Like I said, I think any financial institution, after they see what you're working on, would want a piece of that, so it doesn't matter where they are. But if they want to be a ... It's an Ecuador thing, that's cool. That's cool. We'll take that. Awesome.

Luis:
Well, our community has people all over the world, so yeah, now it's ...

Anna:
It doesn't matter.

Luis:
... No problem where you are based.

Anna:
Exactly. Which is fantastic. So thank you so much. This was cool. This was fun. I think we learned a lot about just your journey, your process, and how you think. I didn't even know that you were like a computer ... was a computer background.

Luis:
Engineer.

Anna:
Yeah. Computer engineer.

Luis:
Computer engineer.

Anna:
Which is, yeah, totally a surprise to me, so I'm glad I do these interviews to find that the [inaudible 00:24:14]. But that's cool because that's a different kind of mindset that you're coming in with, I think.

Luis:
Oh, yes. Engineers have a different mindset.

Anna:
Different protocols and organization, which is cool because now you're tapping into this different kind of creativity. Yeah?

Luis:
Yeah. That's why it's always been difficult for me, like all the process we found though, it helps.

Anna:
Okay. Good to know. Awesome. So thank you so much for being here.

Luis:
Thank you for ... Okay.

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