Make Your Audience Sit Up, Take Notice, And Learn At Your Next Presentation

by drjim on January 14, 2009

Understanding How Adults Learn Is The Key To An Effective Presentation

Understanding How Adults Learn Is The Key To An Effective Presentation

Some presentations are designed to simply motivate your audience. Some are designed to educate them. It’s this second batch that is tricky to do. It’s probably not that your presentations are lacking in educational material, but rather it’s the way that you are delivering it that really matters. You need to find a way to deliver the information in the way that adults learn…

So here’s the answer to this question right off the bat: research shows that adults learn best when information is presented interactively, using role-playing, and peer-to-peer dialog. The lectures that most presenters use are really only good for passing information along to an audience.

The last thing in the world that you want is for your next presentation to remind your audience of a high school or college class. Having you stand at the front of the room and drone on with no chance for interaction is not what today’s audiences are looking for.

The secret to making your presentation “stick” with your audience is to realize that the more active your adult audience is during your presentation, the more they will learn because they will be tapping into the knowledge and experience of their peers.

At different times during your presentation your role as the presenter should really be to be a “guide on a side” who facilitates discussions among audience members and offering feedback as needed.

We’ve all heard about left-brain / right-brain stuff. Our left-brain is set up for the way most presentations are delivered – logical, analytical, and subjective. It’s our right-brain, our visual & creative side, that is not being fed during most presentations.

Much of what it takes to make sure that a presentation appeals to how your adult audience learns has to do with how the presentation event is set up. Here are some key suggestions on how you can make your next presentation a powerful adult learning experience:

  • Use Round Tables: having your audience sit at round (or half round) tables that seat 8 or 10 people helps your audience to interact easily.
  • Schedule Break Time: make sure that your audience has time both before and after your presentation to meet and discuss what they are going to learn and what they have learned.
  • Use Comfortable Seats: Rarely do we have control over this, but if possible the more comfortable the seats are, the more learning will happen.
  • Lose The Lectern: This can be done as simply as making sure that you have a wireless microphone so that you are not tied to one spot and can move around and interact with your audience.
  • Handouts & Downloads Are Good: You audience is hungry for information that they can take back to the office. Giving them something that they can touch and hold is one way to do this.
  • More Brian Food: This is my favorite. Most food that is served during a presentation can be sugar or carb-heavy. If possible, provide healthful food options.

At the end of the day, you go to a lot of effort to get ready to deliver a presentation. You want your audience to be impacted by your words and you want them to be able to absorb and learn from the information that you are presenting. If you follow these tips, your audience will have a better chance of learning and retaining what you have to say.

What do you do today to help your audiences learn what you are presenting? Do you feel that you do a good job of getting your audience to retain what you are presenting? What was the best learning presentation that you have ever attended? What was it so successful? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Technocrat April 2, 2009 at 4:02 am

Stunning information on how to make a informative presentation in a interactive way. I have seen lot of my lecturers, go on and on, speaking without any interaction. That spoils the whole aim of the education.

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Dr. Jim Anderson April 3, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Technocrat: Someone much wiser than I once told me that we speakers need to be careful that we don’t end up talking just because we like to hear our voice! Our ultimate goal always needs to be to change the lives of our audience in some way. Easy to say – hard to do!

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Bonnie Coffey August 5, 2009 at 9:14 am

I’m not familiar with “Brian Food” – but it sounds a tad carnivorous!

Great info – thanks!

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Dr. Jim Anderson August 5, 2009 at 10:01 am

Bonnie: You know, they have not yet invented a spell checker that can catch correctly spelled, but flat out wrong, words. Sigh, guess I’m going to have to do a better job of proof reading…!

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