How to Create Course Content that People Will Buy and Get Results From with Course Whisperer Cindy Nicholson

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Learn about how to create course content that people will buy and get results from with course whisperer Cindy Nicholson in this episode of the LMScast podcast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. Cindy shares her journey of teaching in a school to teaching course creators best practices for creating effective content for their students.

Cindy currently helps course creators with content creation. She started out in college interested in accounting, then decided to go into teaching. She taught physical education and math. Cindy didn’t love the curriculum she was teaching, so she entered the corporate world as a financial advisor for CIBC bank of Canada.

After figuring out she did not love doing the job of a financial advisor, she took an opportunity to do corporate training at the CIBC bank, as she had a background in teaching. Cindy loved doing the training. Taking time off to take care of her kids when they were young pulled her out of the corporate world.

How to create course content that people will buy and get results from with Course Whisperer Cindy NicholsonCindy turned to online business. Nutrition companies were becoming very popular, so she started taking online courses to learn more about the industry, and she struggled to understand the content with how the material was delivered. That sequence is what let Cindy to teach entrepreneurs how to take their content and put it into a course in a manner that makes sense.

At LifterLMS we talk a lot about the five hats problem. It is a very important representation of what makes an online course site successful. The five roles that are necessary for success in a course site are an expert, teacher, community builder, technologist, and entrepreneur. It is very hard for one person to wear all those hats or even successfully build a small team with limited resources to fulfil those requirements.

With online courses, less is more. Cindy recommends having no more than 5 minutes per lesson, no more than 5 lessons per section, and no more than 5 sections per course. This framework makes your course easy to consume and engage with as a student.

Targeting the ideal student for your course will also improve the quality of your education. Designing your course with a specific person in mind that you are aiming to teach it to will help guide your curriculum building skills to deliver effective content.

To learn more about Cindy Nicholson head to You can also find her on Twitter at @CindyDNicholson. Go to to find out more about how you can use LifterLMS to build your own online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!

Episode Transcript

Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.
Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by a special guest Cindy Nicholson from How are you doing, Cindy?
Cindy Nicholson: I’m doing very well, Chris, thanks for having me on the show.
Chris Badgett: You help course creators with content creation. I help course creators with technology. This is a natural fit. But before we get into that, I wanted to ask you about your journey as a teacher and as a content creator and all that stuff. You started, I think with an interest in accounting, then you went into teaching. Started teaching Phys Ed and math, and then you left that to go into the corporate world with the training piece. Can you describe that journey and how you ended up and now you’re over here with entrepreneurs who are wanting to teach online? How did it go?
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah, it’s interesting to hear everybody’s journey, and mine kind of is a very journey about with this underlying theme of training and education. It wasn’t that I was an accountant. I always thought I wanted to be an accountant, but I ended up being a high school teacher. Phys Ed and math were my two teaching subjects, and while I loved teaching, I didn’t love the curriculum or what I was teaching. And so back then it was really hard to get a full time teaching job, so I started to explore other job opportunities or other jobs I could do. And I was really interested in the financial industry, so I actually quit teaching and went to become a financial advisor.
Chris Badgett: Like Edward Jones or something like that?
Cindy Nicholson: What’s that?
Chris Badgett: Like Edward Jones or Smith Barney or something like that?
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah. Well, it was at one of the big banks in Canada here called CIBC. It was a financial within the bank, and just by chance, I had lunch with one of my colleagues one day because I wasn’t enjoying being a financial advisor, and he said, “Well, how about, have you considered corporate training, considering your background is in teaching?” and so interestingly, when I got back to the office, there was a job posting for a corporate trainer at my bank and I applied for it and got it. Loved it, and so I taught financial advisors, how to provide advice to their clients and the sales training and I loved it and did it for a number of years, but then I decided I wanted to stay home with my kids because my kids were really young at that point.
Cindy Nicholson: When you get out of the corporate world and realize what It’s like to not work in the corporate world, you kind of resist going back and so what I started doing then is I started to look at what I might want to do instead that would allow me to be closer to home, and with my Phys Ed background, I really got interested in nutrition and I thought I was going to build a business online in nutrition.
Chris Badgett: It’s a good niche.
Cindy Nicholson: Well, exactly, and it’s huge. Anyway as one is to do when you decide to build an online business is you start taking courses, online courses to figure out how it’s all done and what was happening as I was taking all of these online courses, I really struggled with how the material was delivered. I really struggled with how they were all put together.
Chris Badgett: It was a lot of experts with bad teaching skills basically?
Cindy Nicholson: Well, that’s what I found is their copy was great in terms of their copywriting to get you to buy the course but when she got into the course it really, had a lot to be desired. One of the courses I was taking, I was in a little mastermind group as part of the course and what I totally remember this perfectly clearly, I was on the phone with one of the girls in my mastermind group, and I was helping her with, and it’s interesting it was an accounting course that she was creating, and I was helping her figure out how to put it all together, because she was really struggling with how to take all of that information and put it into a course.
Cindy Nicholson: Anyway, we spent about an hour on the phone, I got off the phone, and two things occurred to me. Number one, while that was really fun, I really enjoy doing it, and two I realized I had a skill set. I had no idea that the ability to kind of take all of this information and kind of distill it into learning material was actually a skill and that some people really struggled with it. That’s when the light bulb went off for me, based on my training background is maybe I can help entrepreneurs figure out how to take all that information and put into a course that makes sense, because there’s so many courses out there that just kind of miss the mark as far as I’m concerned.
Chris Badgett: That’s an amazing journey. There’s a lot I want to unpack in that, but first, on this podcast we talk about one of the big challenge, of course creators is what I call the five hats problem where you have to be an expert, you have to be a teacher, you have to be a community builder, you have to be a technologist and you have to be an entrepreneur. It’s very hard for one person to wear all those hats, or even successfully build a small team with limited resources to fulfill all the requirements there. What I’m hearing from you is that, there’s a lot of experts out there who maybe has some entrepreneur skills in marketing and selling the course.
Chris Badgett: But then when it comes down to the actual teaching and delivery, they’re back at square one with the experts curse problem where they have all this expertise. It’s like swimming around in their head and they don’t know how to necessarily build an outline for the course or how to teach or to empathize with the student or they end up creating the most dangerous kind of course, which I lovingly call the resource course. It’s like this giant library and it’s a little overwhelming to the actual student. What advice do you have for that person who’s “Okay, I hear you, I want to become a better teacher”. When we are at Ground zero, What do they need to be thinking about?
Cindy Nicholson: So true, Chris. Probably the single biggest thing I work with my clients is how to pull them back from just dumping content and information on their students. From a learning perspective, less is more and I keep saying that over and over again to my clients, less is more and so really if people are trying to think … they have an idea of a course is for them to really focus on and answer the question, what is the problem you are solving? You’re not creating a course on SEO, or you’re not creating a course on nutrition, what is the actual problem that you’re solving? That’s really what your starting point is, and once you validate that, that’s a real problem that your audience has, then it’s a matter of, well, what are the steps somebody needs to take to get there, not more, not less.
Cindy Nicholson: I often, will ask my clients, “Is this a need to know? Or is it a nice to know?” Because what your clients want, or what your students need is the shortest distance between getting from where they are today to where they want to go. They don’t need all of these combinations and permutations of getting there, they need just your expert advice as to what you’ve found as the simplest way of getting from point A to point B. Start with the problem and then identify the steps that you need in order to get there and then really kind of … It’s tough I know because people are wanting to feel like they add value.
Cindy Nicholson: They want to feel like they want to give more and give as much as they can, and that only is a detriment, when it comes to online training. I’ll often say, if it’s something you still want to include it in the course, include it as a bonus. You can add it as something supplemental to the course but keep your course itself lean and mean so that they can get there in the shortest time possible without being overwhelmed.
Chris Badgett: There’s a couple of different styles I guess, or you would call it course creation that I see especially new course creators trying to do. One is, “I’m going to create my flagship course it’s always going to be this one course, this is my thing. I’m going to make it better every year, every six months. I’m going to rebuild it based on results to get people to get better results”. Or this person is the more dangerous model is “I’m an expert, I’m going to do a membership, I’m going to have this giant catalog of 20 courses, I’m going to start with whatever course number one is, I’m just going to keep going and going”.
Chris Badgett: That’s totally a viable model, but when I look at the course creators that are successful, there’s a higher odd of success if you start with just focusing on one flagship course, versus starting with a membership in this huge course catalog and everything. Although it is possible to do that, I’m not saying it’s not possible, but do you have any advice for somebody at the beginning who’s not sure which way to go?
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. Any of the clients that I’ve worked with so far, we have started with their signature system. Really what it is figuring out their process of what they do to make them good at what they do. So we often … I’ve actually have not started out a client without that format. We’ve always started out with kind of creating a signature system with the idea that it might build into some sort of membership.
Chris Badgett: Later.
Cindy Nicholson: Later and because then you can add to it, but I think you really need to kind of flush out, build an audience with that initial signature system and then you can add to it. I think it would be extreme and certainly there’s exceptions to every rule but I think it would be difficult to start out as a membership and have the audience and the following that you want without having that initial Signature Course and program.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. What about picking your target market? One of the things experts have to do is they need to decide whatever their niche is “Do I want to go after beginners, do I want to go people that are kind of in the middle or do I want to help other experts that are moral class but they’re not quite … they need a little help to go from they’re already doing at the top and they want to go big” Should you always start with the beginners market? Should you go to the middle? What do you recommend? Or I’m sure that’s an “It depends” answer but how can people think about that? Because I see people doing … they’re trying to cater to all these levels at the same time right out of the gates and it’s challenging.
Cindy Nicholson: Well, I think what you just said there is what’s key, is that you need to define who your market is, rather than try to cater to everyone. It is as you say it depends, I’ve kind of done everything. I’ve had people create kind of one on one courses for people who are beginners two or one courses for people who already have that background but wanted to level it up and then I’ve also done it for a coach teaching other coaches, so I think it totally depends, but the biggest thing is that you are super clear on who your audience is and again, that will help you guide the content that you put in the course because is this something that this person at this level needs to know or do they already know it or this is brand new material.
Cindy Nicholson: I’ll just give you an example. How I was telling you I was taking online courses. I had taken a number of different courses that I had decreed a moratorium on taking any more courses, I wasn’t going to do any more. I had taken enough and so that was it, I was done and then I got an email in my inbox from a business coach and again I was not planning on taking any more courses, I was not in the business but I was “Oh, I’m just going to read her email just from looking at her copyright or what have you”. As I read her email, she talked about her course and one of the things that she was super clear in her description of the course was who her target market was, so she talked about what income you should be around.
Cindy Nicholson: It talked about what’s status you are with your website and having the automation email set up. She talked about how many clients you had up until that date. As I was reading it, of course, it was “Oh my gosh, she describing me exactly” And so of course, I ended up signing up for her course. That was one thing, It was really attractive from a marketing standpoint, but number two, once I got into the course, everything, all of the pieces of content that were in there applied to me directly and so I got a lot of value out of it, and I finished the course.
Cindy Nicholson: I think that just really goes to show being super clear on who your audiences is great from a marketing perspective but also from engagement and completion rate when they get into the course.
Chris Badgett: Wow, that’s good. That is a lot of specifics for your segment, who you help. It’s not just … like you mentioned earlier nutrition, there’s a lot of specifics needed to define a segment and the angle that you’re going to focus on. I know personally for me, I’ve gone to some … for example in a little over a week from now I’m going to Mexico to a mastermind I go to with companies that have WordPress product businesses, but it is so specific the type of people that are there. This is my fourth year going because it’s for people just like me and there’s not that many of us or at least it’s a very specific niche, so it’s very useful and the conversations are so spot on and just saying how important that is.
Chris Badgett: Just some general advice in the course creation space, I look at three main mega niches which is health, business and relationships. If you’re looking for a segment one of the things you have to match is there’s that whole hedgehog concept, your skills, your passion and market demand, so those things need to overlap and the people … if you’re going to create a course they need to be able to afford, to buy it especially if it’s higher priced and that includes any kind of live coaching that takes your time and stuff like that or masterminding or group coaching or whatever.
Chris Badgett: You’ve mentioned in that email you got, it was businesses that already had these types of clients, which means they’re already profitable and have cash flow and they’re of a certain size so, I guess what I’m saying is, It’s very different if you’re going to make a course for businesses that haven’t even started yet, people who want to start a business versus people who, let’s say are already doing $100,000 in cash flow and want to scale to a million. If you have the expertise to do both, they’re both valid and both possible, but if you go after the people that already have traction and can move up, that just seems to me like a less risky endeavor. I don’t know if you have any comments on that.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah. It’s a great point and it’s really also kind of my business model as well in terms of … I work with clients who aren’t necessarily just starting up in their business, I’m working with clients that are established and want to kind of scale their business and maybe don’t have the time or the expertise to kind of do it just on their own, so I think you’re right, because there’s the opportunity there is that people have the capacity and also the motivation to actually move forward to the next step because that first step is really big hurdle to get over.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, I think that motivation is also a key thing and it’s funny when you told your story the same thing popped up out to me. I remember when I saw the blog post about this mastermind, It was so spot on I was … “I’m going, that’s it” even though and it wasn’t … it cost expense to get there, but was just so targeted and when you have that kind of effect on your ideal student, that’s what you’re going for. If you’re doing any kind of market research or putting up a landing page or whatever, I think look for that response because that’s critical.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah. It’s so hard too because people will think that’s going to exclude people but it really, really doesn’t. It just speaks directly to who your audiences for and again, if you are creating the content, it’s so much easier to create the content as well because you don’t need to worry about making sure you cover all of the basis, you just need to cover the basis for that particular student. Students when they get into a course they’re hyper sensitive as to what’s a value for them and if they perceive stuff that is either too basic or too advanced, they’re gone and they’re not coming back, and so again, that’s why it’s so important to be super specific so that all of the content for your particular audiences relevant to them because that motivates them to keep going on in your course as well.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s such a good point and I just want to add, the world is a very big place so if you feel like you’re being exclusive or too targeted. If you nail it, especially if what you’re offering is not really geographic dependent, the world is quite large, and you don’t necessarily need that many people to have a successful business.
Cindy Nicholson: That is very true Chris.
Chris Badgett: I was on your website, it’s over at and you have a … if you opt in and give your email address, you talk about the five mistakes the course creators make. Could you share what some of those classic mistakes are and your take on them? What’s number one? What’s the top one?
Cindy Nicholson: Well, we’ve talked about it already, is just way too much content. It’s single the biggest mistake that I see and single biggest reason why people don’t finish courses. Single reason why people ask for refunds everything is just way, way too much content. If you can really kind of keep the bug in your brain “Is this a need to know or a nice to know” That usually the way I test my clients as to what’s to be included, but definitely way too much content is the single biggest mistake. The other thing about having too much content and I’m currently working with a client who’s doing a course on public speaking and her goal or her outcome is for people to want to be more confident in public speaking.
Cindy Nicholson: Again, as what most course creators are doing and she has all this information that she wants to share about how to speak better. The thing to remember is when people are signing up for your course they don’t have a lot of confidence in what they’re learning from you. They don’t feel like they can do it on their own, and if they get into a course that has tons and tons and tons of information that is going to hinder, not help. It’s going to make them feel even more less confident about what they’re doing. Again, when I come back to my clients with public speaking, I was … “Well, let’s just focus on the high impact”.
Cindy Nicholson: Things that they can focus on to increase their confidence because that’s what they want. People want to feel more confident in what they’re doing, and the way to get them more confident is to give them manageable, actionable tips to help them move forward. So too much content is the biggest thing focus on outcomes or results. The second thing is telling is not training. What I mean by that is-
Chris Badgett: What does that mean?
Cindy Nicholson: It means that just because you say something in a video, doesn’t mean your learners are going to learn what you’ve just said.
Chris Badgett: You need to do a video marketing on YouTube for your business or something.
Cindy Nicholson: Right. It’s really … let’s say you do a whole video on marketing on YouTube, and then you leave it at that, so telling is not training. If you create a video that is not a course, if you have a bunch of 10 different videos, that’s not a course, that’s just information organized into different videos. What I also see in terms of mistakes is there’s or what I recommend is having some sort of action item at the end of each video. Have a worksheet, have an activity, have a case study, give them something so that they can do what they’ve just learned as opposed to just go on to the next video, and Okay, all of that information is great.
Cindy Nicholson: But there’s been no behavior change or there’s been no application, so what I often see in these courses is that they’re just video after, video after video with no application of learning. What I recommend is having after each lesson, have some sort of action item and get it as close to the real world as possible in terms of what that action item should be, so that they start to apply it, because after you’ve learnt… if you’ve watched a five minute video on how to do something that you’re really interested in learning, you want to start doing it so you’re the most motivated to do it after that five minute video.
Cindy Nicholson: So get them to go and do it which will help them with the learning process, so that’s kind of the second mistake I often see is just that there’s just videos in the courses, you need something to make them apply it.
Chris Badgett: In these times, I think it is important for course videos to be entertaining, but there’s this concept of the education and entertainment together that if you just do that, and it’s just the content and your student is really just in consumption mode, not action mode or not doing further exercises to integrate the learning. They’re just consumers. They’re not learners and there’s a big difference there.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah. Some sort of combination is great to make it entertaining, but also have some sort of application. Is like watching a video on how to ride a bicycle, you can watch all of the videos that you want to ride a bicycle, but until you actually get out there and do it, you aren’t figuring it out. I think some sort of combination as long as the entertainment is not at the expense of the learning, if that makes sense.
Chris Badgett: That makes a lot of sense. I want to pick your brain on something that I talk about. One of our lead magnets on LifterLMS is called the course blueprints and there’s four really five types of structures to a course. I was just looking for some feedback from you. One of them you already mentioned, which is a behavior change course. Another one we have we talk about is a process or learn a process course. We talked about the dangerous one I call the resource course, which can be helpful, if somebody just needs library to reference from time to time, that’s cool, but it’s really a slippery slope for the first time course creator.
Chris Badgett: And then the fourth one is what I call a case study course where the teacher is really just collecting information, and you mention case studies and getting people to integrate knowledge a little better, but the case study course is where, let’s say a course creator is “I don’t know if I have everything I need to be successful teaching this” But the reality is that person may have tons of knowledge around case studies and stuff from other people that they can curate and put together which is really valuable.
Chris Badgett: And then the fifth type is just a combination of some or all of that. For creating content for a course or creating the syllabus or the outline, those are some models I like to give people to help maybe pick something or not spray too much on the outline if you will. What are your thoughts on structure besides … just to build on what I said.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah, it’s interesting. I haven’t thought about it in that way because I find that most of the clients that I’m working with, most of the people are wanting to create a course where there’s some sort of behavior change, so that is kind of the type of courses that I’ve designed so far, but I like your idea about the whole case study, in terms of which allows somebody to kind of walk through with you the process that they go through. It’s kind of a different way to share the kind of the same information.
Cindy Nicholson: The resource one, I think that, that’s just the old way of doing training and learning, the way we used to learn at university or college sort of thing. They dumped the information on us, and then we figured out how to use it. I think that, that’s kind of an older traditional way of doing it, but I-
Chris Badgett: I just want to touch on that, I have a friend you may know of Danny Iny he’s a course creator guy. He talks about the difference between just in time learning versus just in case. The old way is “here’s a giant suitcase of information, just in case you need any of this” whereas just in time is much smaller and tighter, like you’re talking about.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah, and that’s what I have found, and maybe it’s just me and my evolution of signing up for online courses, but I have gone from the just in case, taking these massive courses to waiting until I feel like I’m having a problem about something and finding a course that’s specific for that. I think that, that’s really the way the direction of online training is going, is because of the medium of doing things online.
Cindy Nicholson: I think people are really looking for that just in time learning in terms of “I don’t know how to do this, I need a quick fix of how to solve it, and I’m going to go online to find that solution”. Maybe it’s just me, but I think people are less “Okay, let’s figure out … let’s not take a course on how to build an online business, Let’s find what the specific problem actually is”. It’s a good way of putting it.
Chris Badgett: I see this on your website, so it means you probably get asked a lot and it’s related to what we’re talking about, which is how long should a course be? And I get that and sometimes you get it in the macro or you get it in the micro, how long should my lesson videos be? And somebody inevitably on the social feed will say, “Two minutes, because people don’t have attention” Or but I don’t know, what are your thoughts on how long it should be?
Cindy Nicholson: Oh my gosh, that’s the age old question Chris, isn’t it? Is how long should it be? It’s so hard because you always want to answer the questions with it depends, but how do I answer this “It depends”. I recommend that you don’t have longer than five modules to your course. If I can give [crosstalk 00:28:22] sorry?
Chris Badgett: Oh, and I just want to clarify on that on just with the language, but I’m asking you by module, do you mean an area that contains lots of lessons inside of it?
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: In Lifter world we call that a section but it’s the same thing as a module.
Cindy Nicholson: Okay, and then what do you call it in between?
Chris Badgett: lessons inside the module.
Cindy Nicholson: Okay. If you come up … so you have a problem that you’re solving for your clients. They’re starting here and they get to here, so each of the stepping stones are each of your sections of your course, and so I recommend really not having more than five. If you’ve got more than that, you’re covering too many problems. You haven’t narrowed down the problem clearly enough, so I wouldn’t go more than five sections-
Chris Badgett: Okay, limited to five sections.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah. Exactly, and again, if it’s more than that, you may not be a specific with your problem, and if it’s less than that, that’s also okay because then it’s … I’m saying, don’t go more than five, you don’t have to go five. Then within each of the sections, I wouldn’t go more than five lessons, so each of the section is going to have its own specific outcome. You have an overall outcome, and each section will have its own specific outcome, and then I wouldn’t have more than five lessons within each of those sections again-
Chris Badgett: Just to do the math, you’re saying no more than 30 lessons, really, and then five sections, three to five sections. I think that’s a good bumper. “If you go outside this, it’s going to be massive”.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah. You can definitely less. It’s just when you get more then I get a little nervous in terms of it being too much, and then just as far as the lessons go, because again, I stick each lesson into one teaching point. Again, what is it you want them to learn from that lesson? Five minutes … you don’t want to have these 30 minute lessons. They’re just way too long, but five minute lesson where it’s one specific teaching point, and then you give them some sort of action item at the end of that teaching point, then you move on to the next one.
Cindy Nicholson: So they’ve got these mini successes as they go along the way, you want to have that. That can be a pretty robust course, that’s five by five kind of structure is really kind of for the signature courses that I’m kind of creating for my clients. It certainly can be less than that. It all depends on the complexity of the problem that you’re trying to solve.
Chris Badgett: As an expert, I find that for experts that helping them come up with their modules or sections is really helpful to kind of declutter the chaos of their knowledge bank. How should people think to develop if they’re doing a top down approach of “Okay, let me start with the big picture, What are the main modules that are needed”? How do they think through that to create sections? Because I feel like if they can do that, and then they have a limit of five actual lessons within those sections, or modules or milestones, that’s really helpful. How can you pick?
Cindy Nicholson: Well, I recommend just starting with brainstorming, just what does somebody have to be able to do or know or think in order to solve this problem and just brainstorm. You can do it on online mind mapping tool or just sticky notes. Just write them all down and get them out of your head and once you kind of got all of that out of your head then you can see if they can be grouped into different sections. You’ll probably see as you’re kind of grouping them that certain themes pop up and so those things are going to be your sections and then you can put them in those sections into a certain flow to allow them to get to that destination.
Cindy Nicholson: This is now your signature system of how to solve the problem and then when you get into each section, let’s say you’ve got a stack of different sticky notes, then you go through the question of “Is this a need to know or a nice to know” and you keep only the need to know stuff in there and there is kind of the overall course outline of your course.
Chris Badgett: That’s beautiful. I think that’s one of the magic things of going from right brain if … got to give yourself permission, especially if you’re really organized person to go right brain and just do the mind map or the whiteboard or the index cards and just throw it all out there and then you can ask your left brain to come in and be “Hey, what patterns are we seeing? What’s essential? Let’s start organizing this”. I think that really helps experts kind of step out of or just get out of the overwhelm of “I have so much in my head”.
Cindy Nicholson: Because often they approach it with, “what do I want to talk about”?[crosstalk 00:33:22]
Chris Badgett: Yeah, but that’s not what the prospect or the student’s thing is “What do I want to listen to today?” Not that they have a problem, you said, what problem are you solving? What’s the outcome?
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah, exactly, and it’s always focusing on that as you’re doing that brainstorming session. A brainstorm is anything’s allowed, just get it out there and take the time to put it down. As you’re doing this, it never hurts to ask your audience. Find out from them what they’re struggling with, because it may be different than what you think it is, so that will also give you some food for thought as part of the content for your courses. Always going to your audience and finding out what it is they are looking for or what they perceive the problem is.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, I notice on your website, you have a strategy session what goes on in those?
Cindy Nicholson: A lot of the clients that I work with, they are experts in their fields, they want to create a course. They have this idea they want to create a course, they have an idea of what the topic is, but again, their brains are swimming with information and they’re not really sure of how to get all of that information out of their head and into a course that makes sense. The strategy session I do with my clients is to really help them create the course outline for their course, so I walk them through that brainstorming session. I help guide them into the sections of their course and help outline for them what lessons should be within those sections.
Cindy Nicholson: Because once you’ve got that foundation, once you’ve got that organized, creating the content within it is so much easier, because you’ve got this path or this destination that you need to achieve, and so you know the blocks that you need to cover as you go along the way. The core strategy session is all about getting all that information out of people’s heads and into a course design that makes sense for them and for their students.
Chris Badgett: That is awesome, and like I was talking about, the many hats of course creators, if you face what your situation is and you are not a highly developed teacher, you’re an expert, maybe you’re entrepreneur and you’re good at marketing maybe you’ve got a big Facebook group but if your community building whatever but you realize your light on teaching, Cindy can really help you with that because it’s fundamental. You have to get some things right there for it to work. Unfortunately we see a lot in the course building ecosystem as we interact with different people.
Chris Badgett: I’ve come to believe this, people oftentimes build the course the wrong way, in a backwards kind of way, so what I mean by that is the expert will start looking for membership plugins course plugins, course platforms like the tech. They go to the tech and then once they have the tech, they’re … “I need to go get some content and then after they have some content then they’re … “I need to go get some community or some people to sell this to”. From observation, I’ve noticed the ones that are more successful actually go through that the opposite way.
Chris Badgett: They start by just start building community whatever that is, Facebook group Instagram page, email list, a local meetup, whatever it is. That first, then content and then once you have that and you’re really clear on your curriculum design and how you want to do assignments and action steps then you can go to the tech, but unfortunately people go the other way and I see them just go down the tech rabbit hole. Do you see that? Do you have any advice for people who are maybe considering the tech first or have already gone down that path just not in good shape?
Cindy Nicholson: Well, it’s interesting because so many people get paralyzed by making the tech decisions. Inevitably when I’ve been talking with people, it’s … “Well, what platform do I use?” and of course, the platform and having all of the features that you want as part of your design is very important, but it’s not necessarily the first decision that you need to make in putting the course together, but that’s inevitably what people are struggling with. Partially because, well, I don’t know what the answer is, but partially, they feel “Okay, well, I already know the content, and I already may have a bit of an audience, so the thing holding me back is the technology”
Cindy Nicholson: But I think you are bang on in terms of the approach is to really you want to have the community understand who your community is, what the problem is that you’d be solving for them, then figuring out a solution to solve that problem and then ultimately, how do you deliver it to them is kind of the final step in that whole process, but so many people get hung up, “What camera do I use? What microphone do I use?” I don’t know, if there’s a part of psychological resistance and that’s how it’s being portrayed is all of these questions that they can’t make the decision on, but it’s definitely probably not one of the biggest things that they may be needing to be thinking about at the outset for sure.
Chris Badgett: Just to piggyback on what you’re saying that I do believe there is psychological resistance from my observation, whether that’s fear of failure or fear of success, and sometimes going down tech features that aren’t essential is one of those areas that people I just see, one inch from the finish line and we are in this rabbit hole that’s not really necessary and I think there is something psychological going on there, myself included. I know, I almost … I’m not surprised sometimes now when I notice with in myself, my team or other people where on the finish line of a launch, there’s this something going on. It’s just kind of slowing it down or whatever. It’s really interesting actually, this happens a lot.
Cindy Nicholson: And the tech is the easiest one to find obstacles with in terms of finding excuses not to be able to move forward.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s a good point, I’ve never thought about that, that’s true. Even in person classroom, If the projector is not working or I can’t get this whatever, techs are the easy target. Well, Cindy, I want to thank you for coming on the podcast and talking with us today. She’s over at Is there anywhere else where people can go to connect with you or learn more about you and all that.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah, absolutely. They can come visit me on LinkedIn. I’m starting to use that resource a little bit more or also I have my Facebook page at the course whisperer that they can come see me at.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on the show.
Cindy Nicholson: I appreciate you having me Chris, thanks so much.
Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMS cast. I’m your guy Chris Badgett, I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom and impact in your life. Head on over to and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging results giving courses on the internet.

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