These days trainers can face a tough task of holding a student's attention when there are so many distractions available. Retaining material is challenging for students even in the best of conditions, but it has become a lot more difficult in recent times due to the technology filled world we live in, with so many things clamouring for peoples' attention.
So what should a trainer do to make sure his training material stays with his students? Well, we are of the mind that the best way to encourage the retention of material in your students is by delivering it in a memorable fashion.
It is a fact that how well we remember something depends a lot on the kind of impression it had created on us at the time.
You may think your training material is top-notch, and it may well be, but quality material alone does not guarantee long-term retention of it. If your material is bland, people will forget it even before they have stepped out of the class.
To maximise the chances of your students remembering your material for months to come, if not forever, you will need to make sure that your material is interesting and make sure you deliver it in a certain way.
Let’s look at some of the techniques you can use to help your material linger for longer in the memory of your students.
Tell a Good Story
Who doesn’t like a good story? Story telling has long been considered one of the best modes of teaching. Fables and parables have passed on collective wisdom to new generations for ages.
Story telling works because of the following reasons:
Stories are memorable
The narrative structure of a story makes it much easier to remember than a string of facts that might not have much connection. If your students have to follow the clear structure of a beginning, a middle, and an end, this natural sequence will make the facts easier to recall at a later date. If your students can follow the narrative of your story, they are more likely to become engaged with the information, and will be involved enough to want to know what happens next and how the story ends.
Stories are entertaining
People tend to remember things better when they have been entertained, as opposed to when they turn up for a training session simply because they should be learning. Telling a story may be a welcome break from sitting taking notes or reading information from a screen, so your students may not even realise they are learning, as stories are presented as a fun activity. They are also more engaging than just being told information, as people can ask questions or even discuss the stories afterwards with their classmates.
Stories are relatable
Because they have a human element to them, people can relate to stories far better than they would to training material such as statistics, surveys, and studies. While they do sound impressive, they don’t really do much to get people’s imagination going, unless you are lucky to be teaching classes full of statistics enthusiasts. Stories have characters that you students can follow, and relate to, which will make them more invested in the outcome of the story.
For all the above reasons, it's a great idea to incorporate instructional story telling in your teaching material. If you can develop training material around a fictional character and use his fictional journey to make your points, you will have significantly increased your chances of delivering a memorable training session.
Use Striking Visuals
When you can’t tell a good story, impress them with grand visuals.
Hollywood is riding high on success based not on memorable stories but on outstanding VFX that cast a spell on the audience.
Now, of course, we aren’t asking you to go the VFX way or anything remotely like that, we're merely pointing you towards the power of pictures, images, and videos, and why you should work with them to make your sessions more interesting and impressive.
Here are some ways of incorporating the visual element in your classes.
- Break up the text on your presentation slides or course material with captivating pictures that further your point. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all. It’s a lot more likely to stay with your students than chunks of well-thought out text.
- Include short videos in your training material. You don’t have to create these videos yourself, though that is not a bad idea either. Sites like YouTube mean you have a vast library of videos to choose from to enhance your training material.
- Include popular culture references. For example, a session describing the importance of observing all the safety measures in the work place, particularly in hazardous industries, could be hard to digest completely in one session. How about using a clip from Road Runner and Wily E. Coyote to get your point across, and lighten things up, from time to time? You audience may not remember all the detailed points you made, but they will grasp the essence of it, if you time the videos strategically.
Embrace a Bit of Showmanship
We have spoken so far of intriguing material and an entertaining way of delivering it, but since you’re a trainer, and the cynosure of everybody’s eyes for the entire duration of a training session, your own levels of energy and enthusiasm for your subject will also be a huge determinant of how much of your session your students remember.
If you don't have passion for the content you're teaching, or if you come across bored, your students will pick up on this and it will affect they way they learn. If you aren't excited about the material, then why should they be? Make sure you've created a presentation that you can really get excited about teaching, and your enthusiasm will be clear to the students.
Look at how you are teaching your class and address all the weak points in your method of delivery. Take public speaking classes if you get nervous in front of big audiences. Speaking well and speaking with confidence are acquired skills. You want to do full justice to your excellent material, don’t you?
Talk More about Case Studies
Theories are great, but case studies are better. Case studies work for the same reason that stories work - they engage students’ imagination.
Find the best case studies you can pertaining to your subject of teaching, and include them as often as you can in your training material.
Now case studies can be presented as they are, or you can enliven them with a combination of good story telling on your part, striking visuals, and an enthusiastic delivery of the material.
If you get the mix right, you will find students not losing their interest in your teaching. When they are giving you all their attention, without trying hard not to check their phone every two minutes, you know you have done everything you can to make your session a success.
Get Students Involved
Sitting in a class, having lots of complicated information dictated to you is nobody's idea of fun, so a good way to get your students more invested in the work is to get them involved. This could be in the form of simply encouraging participation from your students, by letting them ask questions throughout, to using things like group work or brainstorming to help your student engage with the information.
If your students have been able spend time thinking about the information you are presenting to them, either on their own or by discussing it as part of group work, it should help them take away more from the class and be able to recall more information at a later date.
Learning is one of the most exciting things we can do with our time and it’s a pity that it may have become synonymous with “boring”. Fortunately the explosion of knowledge-driven blogs, community forums, and videos on the Internet has infused an element of excitement into it. Draw from all the sources you can and give the suggestions mentioned here a shot. We are sure your training sessions will improve by leaps and bounds, and your students will remember a lot more of your material than they do right now.