Engagement is an overused two-dollar word that has been tossed around like cascarons (Mexican confetti filled Easter eggs).
Everyone uses that word. Yet rarely is their consensus on what it is and how we get it.
Is The Presentation Engaging?
In the conference and meetings world, we struggle with defining and observing engagement during our presentations. We even survey attendees and ask them if the presentation was engaging.
So what is engagement?
There are two types of educational engagement: psychological and behavioral.
Psychological engagement means that the participants are processing the content. They are providing mental activity. They are thinking about what is being said. They are connecting new information with past experiences and prior knowledge. It may or may not be associated with behavioral activity.
Behavioral engagement is being physically active while learning. It is overt activity in the service of learning. It means some part of the body is moving in some way during a presentation.
It may mean that a person uses an audience response system to reply to questions. Or the learner types comments in a chat box, send tweets, write on a flip chart or talks with others.
Behavioral Engaged Psychologically Tuned Out
Quick, can you think of some times where you are behaviorally active but psychologically tuned out?
Here are some that come to my mind.
- Driving home from work the same way every day.
- Vacuuming the floor.
- Taking a shower.
- Sitting in a poorly designed conference presentation tapping your fingers!
- Walking around the exhibit hall.
- Attending a webinar where the presenter ignores interactive features. The participant then minimizes the webinar window and starts surfing the web.
Sometimes presenters try to incorporate activity that actually does not help learning. They get people up and moving.
You’ve been in those sessions where the motivational speaker says, “Everyone on their feet. Now move your legs up and down. Put your hands in the air and stretch.”
I don’t know about you but I despise those types of presentations. It’s activity for activity’s sake.
Mentally Tuned In But Physically Inactive
There are many activities where one can be behaviorally passive and engaged. Reading a book, viewing a movie, solving a puzzle and daydreaming come to mind.
The primary goal during a presentation is persuasion. To persuade people, they need to be psychologically engaged.
When can presentations be devoid of behavioral engagement and still be effective for learning?
- Are brief
- Present factual information logically
- Target experienced audiences motivated to learn
For learning to occur, physically inactive presentations must include all three factors or they miss the mark. In these situations the audience needs to have sufficient context, prior experience and interest in order to process the content.
What We Really Want And Need
A well-organized presentation that uses engagement methods such as visuals, questioning and group discussion and is targeted to a focused audience leads to learning.
Ultimately, we want presentations that have psychological engagement that can occur with or without behavioral engagement. We want real learning to occur.
What happens when we force people into long lectures without any behavioral engagement and prior experience with the content? What types of behavioral engagement do you enjoy during presentations?