Passive learning has weak results for reasons ranging from people forgetting what was taught to never hearing the facts in the first place. Active learning, on the other hand, is stimulating and helps people draw connections in unique ways that aid our recollection. It’s the difference between blank stares and the Aha! of understanding.
Elements for Active Learning
- Set up the Environment. Visuals and music are stimulating. The room itself can be arranged several ways so be creative when deciding what suits your tone.
- Invite Participation at the Beginning. Allowing your audience to speculate about handouts, any visuals you created or their expectations prepares them to absorb material.
- Use Alternatives to Lecturing. Presentations can be given in a variety of ways. Your skills may lie in storytelling, facilitating role plays or brainstorming. Use them.
- Minimize Mayhem. Managing transitions between activities, including maintaining appropriate energy levels and soliciting feedback are as important for presenters as for school teachers.
Keys to Customizing the Program
- Who is going to be there? Know your audience members’ job responsibilities or special needs and what they’re expecting to do differently as a result of your presentation. If you can’t get the information beforehand, use an expectations activity or series of questions at the beginning of your presentation to understand their needs.
- What do they already know? It’s disheartening to hear a presenter lecture to an audience that already knows the content and call to action required. Leverage the expertise of your audience members by discovering what they already know about the content during your opening comments, and inviting them to share their wisdom and experience with the group at appropriate times throughout your presentation. “Mining the gold” in the room is a critical adult learning principle that will increase audience engagement and feelings of ownership.
- How can you create personal experiences? Always remember that relevant stories that elicit an emotional response will grab and hold the audience’s attention. Consider letting audience members guess the end of the story to increase motivation and track their learning. Stories and activities should be based on the same types of decisions, actions and environment that your audience will encounter on the job.
- “What’s in it for me?” Your audience will apply this filter to every word. From the moment you start speaking, your listeners will readily engage with information they personally find important. They will also disregard anything they deem unnecessary or superfluous.
- What happens afterward? Your challenge is both to share your expertise, and to change behavior or offer actionable solutions to a challenge they are experiencing. Identify these challenges in their environment as you prepare your presentation.
For even more practical, tested ideas for improving your presentation skills, look at the Professional Presence in a Casual World program which helps leaders and experts of all levels share their knowledge and inspire action in their audiences.
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