Virtually There Recap
Think about your day-to-day role. Do you host meetings? Facilitate training? Give presentations? Whether you run these events or not, they represent an important part of our professional lives. Often, we see these events as time wasters, rather than important investments of our focus.
As learning professionals, team members, and managers, we strive to engage and involve our audiences so that they can remember the information we share with them. We hope to take them beyond listening and towards true learning. With the right approach, we can achieve that lofty goal.
Brain-based learning expert Sharon Bowman shared her presentation model and guided our Virtually There participants through a process for getting the brain to pay attention.
In order to capture the attention of others, we need to understand how our brains work. Most simply put, our brains create and look for patterns in information and when completing tasks in order to speed up learning and maximize brain space. When teaching others, we need to support these patterns. Sharon explained:
"There are lots of ways to learn and there are lots of right ways to present, and no one way works all the time. What each of us has done is develop patterns of learning and presenting that work for us. All of us as presenters need to have a variety of tools to present to others, so we can vary the ways we present information to others. Because they have their own patterns of learning and we have to find ways of presenting that works for them, and not just the ways that work for us as presenters."
Specifically, the most effective presentations incorporate the four things the brain notices: novelty, contrast, meaning, and emotion.
Including Novelty and Contrast
Incorporating two of the core principles of brain-based learning marks a key step in leading more effective presentations. Novelty matters because the human brain pays more attention to things in the environment that are new to a person’s experience. Additionally, anything that is in contrast grabs our attention because it’s contrary to what the brain expects. Sharon shared two simple ways to leverage both contrast and novelty into your next session.
Method 1: Stand Up Meetings. Take a peek at your calendar. Do you have a meeting under thirty minutes on the books coming up? Use it as an opportunity to try something new! During this meeting, have attendees stand up either around a table, around the meeting room, or next to a wall chart they’re writing on.
Many organizations practice this approach, but few understand the neuroscience behind why they’re more effective than traditional meetings. The answer? Oxygen! As Sharon pointed out:
“More oxygen flows to the human brain when we are standing and moving than when we are sitting. More oxygen means the brain can pay better attention, it can learn, and it can retain better afterwards.”
We can earn those benefits by simply asking attendees to stand? Sounds good to us.
Method 2: Stand, stretch, speak. The second method Sharon highlighted for adding contrast and novelty works well for face-to-face and virtual presentations of all lengths. After sharing a particularly important concept or piece of information, ask your learners to stand up and complete a simple stretch, like neck rolls, or to put their arms above their heads. While doing so, prompt them with a topic-related question or invite them to reflect upon what they just learned and how they’ll implement it on the job. By asking your audience to physically participate in the session, they’re more likely to mentally engage with the material.