Talk Less, Teach More!

blog3The title of this blog entry came from a friend in the speaking industry – a motivational speaker who was trying to change his own habit of speaking non-stop, without allowing any audience participation. When he tried to stop talking and to include short, quick activities during his speech, he realized how challenging it was for him to move away from the “sage-on-the-stage” role.

At first, even something as simple as tossing a beach ball around the room to elicit feedback to a question was difficult: he still commanded “center-stage” by having audience members return the ball to him after each toss. He realized that he needed to step off that “center-stage” place and allow the audience members to toss the ball to each other, instead of back to him each time.

Simple things like that make the difference between “trainer-centered” and “learner-centered” instruction. For example, when you ask a table group to summarize a discussion they just had, do they face you and tell YOU the summary, or do they face the other participants and talk to the WHOLE GROUP? By doing the latter, the focus is on the group, not on you. The difference is subtle: participants are now in charge of their own learning and they don’t have to look to you for agreement or approval.

Anything you consider important enough for learners to remember should be repeated by them in some fashion: verbally, in writing, drawing, or in small group discussions. If it’s important enough for YOU to say, it should be equally important for THEM to say. And when they are talking, you move to the side of the room and remain silent. In other words, the less YOU talk and the more THEY talk, the more THEY learn.

So was my friend finally able to make the move from “sage-on-the-stage” to “guide-on-the-side?” In a word: yes. And his audiences have loved him for it!

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