I think I’m engaging, but why doesn’t my audience seem engaged?

As a presenter, I have my favorite techniques and strategies to engage my audience. Ironically, the more I attempt to engage an audience with some of these techniques and strategies, the less I’m actually able to engage them. As I’ve reflected on this over the past several years, the issue seems to be related to people’s preferred learning styles.

You may be familiar with the three basic learning styles: auditory, visual, kinesthetic.

I’ve found that the techniques that I favor are generally presentation strategies that appeal to my own preferred learning style. I’m a visual learner, and when I present I spend a lot of time working on visual aids which I think are clever and engaging. And of course they are clever. But those in my audience who may prefer to process information through things they hear or say (auditory learners) and those who prefer to roll up their sleeves and experience the learning by doing something (kinesthetic learners) may feel a bit neglected.

If you’d like to learn more about the three basic learning styles or if you need help coming up with some activities to engage all of your learners during your next presentation, here is a link to a short elearning module I spent some time developing this weekend.  Here’s a sneak preview:

Learning Styles (Auditory)

Learning Styles (Visual)

If you have any feedback on this elearning module or if you think it can be improved, drop me a line in the comments section.

If you know someone who might find this program helpful as they gear up for their next presentation, pass this post along to them.

And if you want a steady stream of tips and techniques on learning and development, I invite you to hit the follow button at the top of the screen I order to subscribe to this blog.

9 thoughts on “I think I’m engaging, but why doesn’t my audience seem engaged?

  1. I am subscribing to your blog because I find your insight outstanding. I am currently a classroom teacher and I find that when teaching it necessary to include all learning styles in order to truly reach students. For this reason, I ensure that each lesson includes a auditory and visual components daily. I also include a tactile or kinesthetic component after every 2 classes because I don’t want to lose those learners who learn by discovery. As I transition into adult learning, I hope to be able to incorporate this same idea. It seems that many presenters leave the kinesthetic learners to fend for themselves. I believe that even as adults, we should find a way for people to actually discover new learning during meetings and trainings to ensure greater retention. Great post, and keep them coming.

    • Wow, thanks for the extremely kind words!

      As a previous commenter mentioned, there is a raging debate right now about the “science” behind learning styles, but in 15 years of experience in front of groups, I still believe strongly that if a facilitator (or teacher) isn’t making an effort to incorporate visual, auditory and kinesthetic elements into their day, then the learning experience is often lacking.

      You’re right on… the poor kinesthetic folk often get the least attention.

      What kind of classroom teaching did you do, and what kind of adult learning are you now doing?

      • I am 5th grade math teacher in Katy, Texas. I am working on a second Master’s Degree in Instructional Design. I am looking to become an instructional Designer, hopefully in the medical field.

      • I did some student teaching in a 5th grade classroom… there are soooooo many parallels between effective instruction in the classroom, engaging 5th graders and effection adult education/instruction. Good luck as you transition into instructional design!!

  2. as usual, your blog posting was terrific! I look forward to them all. I especially liked the eleraning module as it allowed me to navigate the way I wanted, was humorous, and got the main points across. Although there is lots of debate right now regarding learning styles, it still helps to mix up our presentation activities to keep people actively engaged and involved.

    • Thanks Priscilla!

      Indeed there is a lot of debate over the “scientific” claims to learning styles (and that’s why I stayed away from any type of formal inventory questionaire). And there are lots of ways to address the various learning needs of the audience (mulitple intelligences, etc).

      I’ve found that keeping it to 3 aspects – auditory, visual, kinesthetic – helps keep it simple when facilitators are looking to incorporate a variety of strategies to engage learners. When I touch on learning styles, I generally have two points:
      1) Lecture isn’t engaging and many people won’t be moved to do anything new or differently after a lecture
      2) Presentations are about finding ways to engage the learner/audience, NOT about what’s easiest for the presenter

      The *science* of learning styles is definitely on shaky ground… but I think the *art* of learning styles is a very important element to presentation skills!

  3. Hi Brian…I recently came across your blog and find it so helpful and spot on. I love the idea of brief e-learning pieces about learning styles. When I opened them, however, all I got was a slide…no animation or sound. It did not open as a presentation. Just wanted to let you know in case others have the same experience.

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