Making presentations personal – Engaging across audience learning styles

Psychologists over the years have theorized that everyone has different strengths when it comes to learning and mastering new material.

Some people might excel when they read something or see images. Other people prefer to listen to content. The VARK method offers four main styles of learning. Other models may say seven or even more. While we can leave it to the psychologists to iron out the details, as presenters we should at least take away that the people attending your presentation are not all going to learn the same way. So what does this mean for presenters?

The importance of reaching the audience in their learning style

When giving presentations, you want the audience to absorb the information you are giving them. You want them to appreciate what your company can do for them. If your presentations focus too much on just one or two different learning styles, there is a serious risk that the rest of the room is not going to learn what you are trying to teach. This is not school, where people will go back and review their notes. You have one pitch to get them to absorb your big idea, and you have to make that count.

Reading the audience

It is not going to be possible to incorporate every learning style into every presentation, so presenters must instead choose a few that make the most sense based upon the audience. For example, those who excel in the sciences and engineering tend to be very logic-minded. Those working in design most likely enjoy more creativity and imagery. Work to incorporate a bit of variety into the overall presentation, such as stories, facts, graphs, images, and maybe a bit of music to make a well rounded pitch to reach as many people as possible.

The same way a teacher must work to create lesson plans that will appeal to the variety of learners they have in their classroom, presenters must also work to appeal to as much of their audience as possible. Understanding the varied learning types making up your audience can go a long way toward reaching everyone in the room.