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Real learning happens when a trainer isn’t talking

July 21, 2012

Sitting in a tired room. Drinking your seventh cup of coffee. Examining with disinterest the remains of the tired, variety-pack biscuits missing most of the exciting flavours. For most of us it’s a familiar experience; we’ve all been through those slow, mind-numbingly painful training-sessions-cum-agonizing-deaths-by-Powerpoint. The truth is that education and training is the hardest kind of speaking. So what’s the secret to giving a training session, where the audience actually takes the important things away? 

It’s an often-quoted statistic that people remember 20% of what they hear and 90% of what they do and say (ref: here ). Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the best in action at London Corinthians, a public speaking club in London affiliated to toastmasters international. I’ve can honestly say I learned a lot from participating in their workshops.  The lesson is simple; If you want a group of people to learn something, you need get them saying and doing. How often have you seen trainers lecture their audiences, believing that they imparting wisdom and knowledge, thinking that if they aren’t speaking, their audiences aren’t learning.  In reality, it’s almost the reverse: trainers need to let the participants do the talking, guide the discussion and offer a structure for the learning to happen.  

Getting audiences involved often is more effort than doing it all yourself and less confident speakers often don’t like to share control with participants. However, even for a nervous speaker, some simple strategies can make a huge difference. Getting participants to talk in small groups on an important question and feed back to the group is a great strategy for involving an audience; it gives participants the reassurance that their idea or question isn’t barking before revealing it to the group as a whole and encourages them to volunteer answers to questions.  Group work and structured activity are even better for helping participants actually learn. (for more great ideas, I love this briefing I found on the web, see here)

Next time you’ve got some knowledge to impart or a workshop to run, make it interactive. Remember if you’re doing all the speaking, you’re not leaving enough time for the learning.

 George

 President, London Corinthians 2012-13

Working or living in the LondonVictoria area? Want to know more about becoming a better public speaker? Visit London Corinthians on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursdays @ 7.30pm. http://www.londoncorinthians.co.uk/.

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