Our conferences and association education programming depend upon speakers as experts sharing their knowledge with the crowd.
Yet, the education research is loud and clear that people talking at an audience does not necessarily lead to attendees’ learning. Actually, there’s more likelihood that you’ll win a multi-million dollar Powerball lottery than telling leads to learning.
Speaking, telling and presenting does not usually lead to learning. Nor does it lead to transforming lives by changing attitudes, behaviors and skills.
Learning Is Not The Byproduct Of Listening To A Speech
Most speakers are very good at preparing their speech.
They spend adequate time putting their main points into an outline. They weave in personal stories and insights to make their speech more entertaining.
Then they often practice their timing and delivery of their speech.
The entire presentation process is focused on the speaker as the expert planning and organizing what they are going to say.
Yeah, that’s the way it works, you might say. But does it really work? What is the result we hope to achieve?
A speaker talking at and telling an audience about their knowledge is predicated on the belief that an audience member listening to their voice creates a product. We have bought into the belief that the speaker has a magic wand and their speech will produce learning as a byproduct.
Well, the education research shows that it is just not the case
When Speakers Really Care About Bottom Line Results
When speakers really care about the audience learning something, they plan their presentations differently.
They see their role as that of a learning facilitator, change agent, education evaluators, adaptive learning experts, seekers of audience feedback about their presentations and a guide on the side to paraphrase Visible Learning author John Hattie.
When speakers really care, they believe one of their fundamental tasks is to evaluate their role in their audience’s learning. They see their job as more than one of dispensing knowledge like a Pez candy machine. They embrace that their role is to help audiences wrestle with making sense of the information, creating a deeper understanding of the content an uncovering ways to apply it.
Speakers Should Concentrate On Audience Interactions More Than Their Speech
When speakers really care about an audience’s learning, the focus their energy on the interactions they have with each audience member and the interactions participants have with each other.
The interaction between what participants are doing with each other and the speaker is key to the participants’ learning.
“It is the interaction– and being tuned into the nature and impact of these interactions — that is critical.”
This means that speakers need to start by seeing learning through the eyes of their participants, not through the lens of their speech. It translates into presenters evaluating what they are doing and what their participants are doing during the presentation.
This shift in thinking is about assessing the effect of the presentation on what the participant does or doesn’t do during the presentation that leads to change in the brain.
In short, the question we should ask speakers is: what will the audience do during your presentation? If the speaker responds with “They will listen to me,” reconsider securing that speaker! They aren’t about transforming lives!
What are some criteria we can use for selecting speakers that focus on audience learning instead of just spouting their speech? Why have we bought into the idea that learning is the byproduct of listening to a lecture?