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Would You Touch a Hot Stove?

Think back to when you were in school. When it came to absorbing what you were being taught well enough to pass a test, how did you do it? Were you the student who retained the material by paying attention and actually listening to the teacher when they were speaking? Did you absorb more by taking lots of notes during class? Or did you focus on doing a great job on your homework? Now think about this scenario from the teacher’s perspective—or more to the point a speaker’s perspective. They really aren’t all that far apart. In both scenarios, the goal of the person at the front of the room is to present their content in a way that the people in the audience are more likely to absorb it. The challenge is that people learn in different ways. For example, when a mom says, “Don’t touch the hot stove because if you do you’ll get burned,” is that enough to guarantee that the child would never touch a hot stove? If the child is an auditory learner it might because auditory learners can hear something once and absorb it without having to hear it again. A visual learner might be more likely to learn the lesson if they see their brother touch the hot stove and get burned. A kinesthetic learner (like me!) needs to touch the hot stove anyway, because kinesthetic learners need to physically prove to themselves that a hot stove will burn them. I did this when I ironed the sleeve of my coat while I was wearing it thinking that it couldn’t be that hot thru the sleeve. I learned that lesson kinesthetically and still have the scar to prove it. There’s a lot of science proving that people have different learning styles, but the number of speakers who take full advantage of this information are few. One explanation of the different learning styles people have is provided at VARK-Learn.com. VARK stands for: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic learning. Visual Learner:  The visuals you share with your audience, whether it’s a PowerPoint, white board, easel notes, or even physical props you use during your presentation, provide these learners with images that will help them connect with and remember more of your content. Auditory Learner:  When you speak your presentation, you’ve got the basics of the auditory learning style covered. But auditory learners will need more than to just hear your words. They’ll be listening to the way you say them too, hoping to hear evidence of your purpose and passion coming through. If it does, they’ll be more likely to connect and engage with you. Reading/Writing Learner:  Personally, this one resonates with me because I’m likely to remember more when I take notes. So it’s up to us as presenters to make sure the people in our audience have a logical way to take notes, such as fill-in-the-blank style handouts. At the very least, make sure your content is shared in a logical easy-to-take-notes order. Kinesthetic Learner: These people learn better when they physically get to do something. I’m not suggesting you need a hot stove (or iron), but we’ve all seen how people perk up when you bring someone from the audience onto the stage, encourage the audience to comment and ask questions, or have the people in the audience interact with each other. Acknowledging that people have different learning styles kind of gives you permission to be creative with different ways to make your presentations more interesting and/or interactive. It might take a little trial and error at first, but the solutions that work will provide your audience with even more reasons to remember how much they enjoyed your presentation.