Most association education, whether online or face-to-face, actually inhibits learning.
In a typical presentation, attendees sit and listen while presenters stand and deliver.
That is the sure sign of learning failure.
Lectures And Bicycles
I remember when I first learned to ride a bike.
My parents had given me my first bike complete with training wheels. After a couple of days of riding with the training wheels, I was ready to take them off. I wanted to ride my bike like my father did. I wanted to be a big boy.
My father took off the training wheels, held the bike steady and told me to pedal. He gave me a gentle push. He ran beside me and encouraged me with additional instructions. It took several attempts to balance without crashing.
I experienced a temporary sense of sensory overload while I was trying to steer, pedal, balance and listen to his instructions. Amazingly, I was able to process all that information into a new skill rather quickly.
My father did not sit down and review the history of bikes with me, discuss bicycle mechanics or the principles of balance before we started. Had I been required to sit and listen to my father’s lecture before ever attempting to ride a bike, I would have disconnected. I would have looked for something else to do.
The same situation applies to today’s presentations.
Making Meaningful Presentations
Our brains are meaning-driven. Meaning is more important than information.
Did you catch that last statement? Meaning is more important to our brains than information. The brain is a meaning driven machine.
We are constantly trying to find meaning in associations, connections, data and patterns. We are trying to make meaning out of the information that is being presented. We try to connect new information to past experiences and knowledge stored in our minds.
When we find a pattern that is meaningful to us, we add it to our perceptual map. If it connects to the knowledge already stored in our minds, we learn.
When we can make those connections, we get a sense of relief from the anxiety, confusion or stress that accompanies data, facts and figures. If we can’t connect it to past experiences, we feel a sense of confusion and are overwhelmed. We don’t understand.
And if we don’t get some time to think and process the information during the presentation, we become distracted and confused. If we have to sit and listen while the presenter stands and delivers for 30-, 60-, or 90-minutes, we lose the ability to learn.
Presenters that attempt to maintain an audience’s attention 100% of the time, in fact, hinder learning. They are counter-productive to their goal.
In order for us to really learn something, the brain has to go internal in order to make meaning from the information. We need time to stop listening, think and reflect on what is being said.
What are some ways a presenter can provide down-time during a presentation? How can associations provide time for thinking, processing and reflection during education programs?