All learning IS experience. Everything else is just information. ~ Albert Einstein
Talking is a critical part of that learning experience. We talk so we can understand. We talk so we can remember. We talk so we can learn.
But who does the majority of talking at a conference and who does the majority of listening? The speakers talk as the audience listens.
Attendees Spend The Majority Of Their Conference Time Listening
Yes, listening is part of the learning process. However, in formal learning environments, like the lecture, listening is usually the only thing that attendees do. And it’s the least thing they should do if learning is the goal.
Evidence-based education proves that listening is the smallest part of the learning process. To learn best, attendees should listen and watch, write and talk, demonstrate and practice, and share what they’ve learned with someone else. It is when they talk about it and share with others that they begin to master the subject.
Bottom line, the person doing the most talking at your conference is the person doing the most learning about that topic. Usually, that’s the speaker.
We should be allowing our attendees to talk more at conferences. Our education sessions should sound like a thriving beehive with buzz of talking attendees.
Strategies To Improve The Lecture And Increase Audience Engagement
Here are five strategies to help all lecturers improve audience learning and retention.
1. Speakers Stop Talking
This will be the most challenging thing a presenter has to do.
“But I have so much information to cover. They need to understand this principle and this principle and this fact to understand the bigger issue,” is probably what many of your speakers will say. Just remember, the longer they talk, the less the audience learns.
Speakers should identify three things they want the audience to remember and build their presentation around those three things. Then they should plan to stop talking several times in their lectures, even if just for a couple minutes. The audience can summarize what the speaker has said and how they might apply them in one to two minutes.
2. Begin With Pairs
When a speaker asks a large audience a question, only one person responds while everyone else listens. When the speaker encourages everyone to find a partner to discuss the question, everyone gets involved in answering that question. The introvert also feels safer talking to one individual than a table of ten or twelve.
The speaker can move from pairs to triads to crescent rounds of six throughout the presentation to mix it up. However, the speaker should start with pairs whenever possible.
3. Create The Safe Space
For audiences, a low-risk activity is one where they collaborate with others to answer a question. High-risk activities stir up the emotions as someone has to answer the question in front of a group. The risk is psychological because most people do not wish to appear ignorant in front of others.
Paired or triad discussions are low-risk discussions and create a sense of a safe space.
4. Two Before You (If You’re The Speaker)
Frequently when an attendee asks the speaker a question, others in the room know the answer. Help the speaker ask for two responses to the question before responding. Or when the speaker asks a question, he/she can say, “I would like at least two responses before continuing.”
5. Open-Ended Fosters Discussion
Whenever possible, the speaker should ask open-ended questions. Yes/No questions don’t engage the brain. Here are some sample questions to consider:
- How does this information compare with what you already know about this subject?
- What does this information mean to your profession or task?
- What are two things you now know that you didn’t know before you came to this session?
- What are some changes you can make to leverage this information?
- What are the barriers that will keep you from applying this information and how can you overcome them?
- How will you share this information with your team, colleagues and supervisors and what do you expect them to say?
- What will it take for you to apply this information?
Hat Tips to author Sharon Bowman and her many education resources about learning and training.
What’s keeping you from transitioning from conference education that is talking monologues to peer sharing? What other strategies would you suggest to improve the common lecture?