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All learning IS experience. Everything else is just information. - Albert Einstein
Talking is a critical part of that learning experience. We talk so we can understand. We talk so we can remember. We talk so we can learn.
But who does the majority of talking at a conference and who does the majority of listening? The speakers talk as the audience listens.
Participants spend the majority of their conference time listening
Yes, listening is part of the learning process. However, in formal learning environments, like the lecture, listening is usually the only thing that participants do. And it’s the least thing they should do if learning is the goal.
Evidence-based education proves that listening is the smallest part of the learning process. To learn best, participants should listen and watch, write and talk, demonstrate and practice, and share what they’ve learned with someone else. It is when they talk about it and share with others that they begin to master the subject.
Bottom line, the person doing the most talking at your conference is the person doing the most learning about that topic. Usually, that’s the speaker.
We should allow our participants to talk more at conferences. Our education sessions should sound like a thriving beehive with buzz of talking participants.
Strategies to improve the lecture and increase audience engagement
Here are five strategies to help all lecturers improve audience learning and retention.
1. Speakers stop talking. This will be the most challenging thing a presenter has to do.
“But I have so much information to cover. They need to understand this principle and this principle and this fact to understand the bigger issue,” is probably what many of your speakers will say. Just remember, the longer they talk, the less the audience learns.
Speakers should identify three things they want the audience to remember and build their presentation around those three things. Then they should plan to stop talking several times in their lectures, even if just for a couple minutes. The audience can summarize what the speaker has said and how they might apply them in one to two minutes.
2. Begin with pairs. When a speaker asks a large audience a question, only one person responds while everyone else listens. When the speaker encourages everyone to find a partner to discuss the question, everyone gets involved in answering that question. The introvert also feels safer talking to one individual than a table of ten or twelve.
The speaker can move from pairs to triads to crescent rounds of six throughout the presentation to mix it up. However, the speaker should start with pairs whenever possible.
To get the rest of Hurt's strategies, go to his blog "Midcourse Corrections," where this column appeared originally. Hurt is education and engagement director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.