How many times has this happened: you’ve got an important message to get across, you work hard to put together the best presentation that you can, you practice-practice-practice, and then when you finally deliver your piece de resistance you can clearly see that some folks in the audience are getting it while others have tuned you out. Dang it! What can you do to reach everyone?
You’ve already learned how to connect with your audience. Now it’s time to find a way to get your message to stick. The good news here is that it’s not your fault. What’s going on is that you are trying to communicate with a group of adults and they all have different learning styles. However, we all have our own personal style by which we learn and too often we assume that that is how the rest of the world learns also. Hmm, sure sounds like we’ve got to figure out how adults learn. My buddy Lenn Millbower is an expert in this area and he refined his tactics while working for Disney so you know he’s got to be good. At the root of what Lenn teaches is that us adults fall into four basic groups of learning styles (see if you can pick yours out):
- Act / Think: “Lab Style” – this is where much of an IT audience ends up. These folks like to test the new information by solving problems, being objective, seeking results, experimenting, and tinkering.
- Act / Feel: “Playground Style” – this type of learner really likes to try out the new information that is being taught. Doing things like acting, sensing, deciding, applying, and then connecting ideas all help to make what’s being taught “stick”.
- Reflect / Feel: “Cafe Style” – you’ll find this type of crowd down at your local Starbucks if you don’t do something to hold their attention. They like to talk about your information once you have shared it. This includes sharing, relating, discussing, seeking attention, and working in groups.
- Reflect / Think: “Lecture Hall Style” – yep, this is the “old school” style that we all grew up with. For some, it works the best. It is based on thinking about what is being taught. Your audience then likes to listen to experts, explore principles, analyze ideas, theorize, and of course read.
These four groups are at the heart of the 4MAT approach to teaching. I can hear you now: so I’ve got an audience made up of four different learning styles, how am I supposed to reach out to all of them? It sounds like I really need four different presentations. No you don’t. Instead, what you need to do is to make sure that you present your main points in four different ways within the same single presentation.
That’s right, rotate through each of the four learning styles so that you make sure that you get through to your audience. Real quickly, let’s look at an example. Lets say that your company has just bought another company and you are in charge of merging the two sets of billing applications that the two companies currently use. If you were giving a kick-off presentation to both company’s IT departments, then you’d want to do the following: clearly define the problem that integrating the multiple billing systems presents and ask the audience to think about how they’d tackle this problem (Lab Style), show how combining billing systems will streamline the new company’s ordering process (Playground Style), divide the audience up into groups in order to create a list of the top 10 issues that will need to be tackled (Cafe Style), and have someone who has done this type of IT project before say some words about what to watch out for (Lecture Hall Style).
If you can work these four different approaches to presenting the same material into a single presentation, then you’ll have solved the problem of getting your message to “stick” with everyone in your audience.