How to Help Your Audience Learn and Take Action – Part 1

Back to School Special

Are you a trainer or a coach or an instructor or teacher?

Do you provide training as part of a business strategy?

Do you use educational marketing to persuade clients and prospects that they need your products or services?

If so, you need to read this blog post because training – especially training adults – is not what it used to be!  People today have different expectations for training as well as for marketing.

Here are a few changes in Western society that affect both training and marketing:

  • Adults, and to some extent children, have the ability to learn much of what they want to learn through the internet.
  • Adults now place a much higher priority on learning that produces results in their lives – preferably fast results!  Learning for its own sake is considered by many to be a luxury for which they no longer have time.
  • People expect training to be entertaining, interactive, and fast-paced – more like an adult version of Sesame Street or the Electric Company than like the traditional classroom many of us sat in as children.
  • People would like training to be easy.  They don’t want to work hard, mentally, to get the information they seek.  Instead they would like the trainer to do most of the work for them and spoon-feed them the nuggets they need.  (You can’t really blame them for this.  Who has time to read or listen to a bunch of stuff they’re not going to use!)
  • Adults especially prefer to have some control over what, when, and how they are learning.  (I believe this is probably true for children as well, but they don’t always have the insight to know this or the opportunity to request it.)
  • Our super-busy schedules and the huge influence of the internet are leading to significantly reduced attention spans.
  • Nobody wants to be “marketed to” or “sold to” anymore!

Psychologists and neuroscience researchers actually describe 2 different types of attention:  narrow, focused, selective attention and broad, diffuse attention.  Recent studies have shown that 21st century culture is reducing most adults’ selective attention while slightly increasing our diffuse attention.

While this gives us the ability to notice a lot of different things going on around us, it definitely makes it harder for us to process information and make careful, informed decisions.  As you can imagine, that has an impact on how your audience responds to your presentations, webinars, and marketing videos.

I also want you to be aware of some things that have NOT changed about the way your audience receives and processes the information you share:

  • People still can’t read and listen at the same time!  They really cannot listen to you while they’re trying to read and comprehend your bullet points.  If you pay close attention to your own mind the next time you attend a live presentation or a webinar, you can observe your mind struggling to shift attention back and forth between listening to the speaker and processing what’s on the screen.
  • People still learn best when information is presented through multiple channels, e.g. verbal and visual.  The visual channel is actually becoming more important than before on the internet, as I’m sure you’ve noticed!  (Note that reading text on a screen is primarily a verbal/auditory activity, NOT a visual activity!  Visual means graphic images, not words.)
  • People still need “time and space” to process information before they can either make a decision about it and/or transfer it to long-term memory.  Sharing too much information and/or sharing it too quickly contributes to an overwhelm effect that is often described as being hit by “a firehose of information”.  As you would imagine, this is not an ideal situation for learning or decision making.
  • Short-term memory is still restricted.  Most people can only hold about 3-4 items at a time in short-term memory, also called working memory.  Giving your audience more information than that means they will need to let go of earlier bits you’ve told them in order to free up memory space to listen to and process the next piece of information.

In order to help your audience learn what you tell them and help them make a great decision about your offer, you will need a presentation system that helps you avoid the problems described above and also helps you take advantage of the changes in adult learning preferences.

Stay tuned for my upcoming blog post in which I’ll describe my presentation system and how it helps you to address all the learning challenges described in this post.

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