When I undertook the induction program to become an ITC first aid trainer one of the training strategies we used was video. We delivered sections of a course, videoed our delivery and then reviewed the video later. It was both fascinating and illuminating and I learnt 3 things I didn't know before about the way I delivered - I wave my arms a lot while I talk, I don't like hearing my own voice and, most significantly, I talked far too much.
Several years have passed and, although my delivery has improved, I know I still talk too much - but I'm constantly working on doing it less. There is a lot to be said for concise, uncomplicated delivery in all areas of instruction because sometimes key messages can be hidden by explanations that are either over complicated or that try to cover too much ground at once. Less can definitely be more.
It is also important to tailor the delivery to the situation. In a relaxed setting there may be scope for a longer discussion and sharing of ideas, whereas in higher pressure situations concise delivery can be vital. The number of words used should be directly related to the situation. When someone is on tricky ground, for example, direct commands such as 'left foot here' are better than 'maybe it would be a good idea to shift your foot on to the flat Rhyolite edge on your left hand side!'. It takes practice to be concise, but it works.
A variety of delivery methods also helps. Although the concept of favoured learning styles has been disputed by several studies, adding some variety certainly maintains interest as long as it doesn't vary so much that it confuses people. For many a clear demonstration backed up with a brief explanation may be the ideal combination. A trick I have also sometimes used with larger groups is to present things silently. For example, get the group in a semi-circle and then let them watch while you demonstrate on yourself how they should fit their harness and then they can go off and fit their own (you'll obviously need to check they are fitted correctly afterwards.
Slowing down delivery and giving people some pause time for them to assimilate the information is vital too. I once went to a first aid course where the trainer would win a world medal for his speech speed. While it was impressive it was also totally ineffective and I soon found my mind drifting by imagining how useful it would be if he had a control switch on the top of his head so we could turn the speed down. The same applies to other forms of delivery. If you are demonstrating a technique it really helps to control the pace. I delivered a self-rescue course with a trainee colleague and because he was so well rehearsed in the techniques he had a tendency to race through leaving the course participants still trying to work out the first step by the time he'd finished the whole sequence.
With complicated sequences it can help to build things up gradually. Show a step then allow time to practice. Add another and practice both. Drop in a third and practice from the start. ITC first aid courses are all delivered in this style and it's incredibly effective. Manageable steps, loads of repetition and plenty of practice time. Another trick is to vary the delivery style which can help keep participants engaged if there is a lot of info to get across. It keeps them focussed and stops them getting bored.
Lastly, if you are in a classroom environment and using a presentation package like Keynote or PowerPoint then it's essential that, if you need to use it at all, you don't overdo it. Presentations should be simple and used sparingly. That old adage of 'death by PowerPoint' is very apt and I'm sure we've all suffered the all singing and dancing 2 hour presentation with animations, wacky slide design and graphics!
So, I'll leave the last words to Marc Twain, who, when he was a reporter is said to have been bet by his colleagues that he couldn't write a 6 word story. He came up with what many thought to be his best ever work. It also demonstrates beautifully both the principle that less can be more and the power of pausing. What was his 6 word story? Here goes......... For sale. Baby shoes. Never used.
Genius. So, talk less, vary the style and build things up gradually. Nothing to it really :)
Posted by Paul