“All a pure facilitator can do is pool all the ignorance in the room.”

I got an email from a friend who follows this blog and he joked, “Enough with Gagne and these events.  Go back to the stories and tips!”  (At least I hope he was joking.)  But I take his point; this stuff is a bit dry.  But when I started this blog I said my objective was to teach and provide stories, ideas and tips for salespeople, sales managers, and trainers, and I have been remiss in not giving enough content to the trainers.  So you’ll just have to suffer through all nine of Gagne’s events. It won’t kill you.

Today we’re going to explore the fourth event, “present the learning content,” which Gagne originally wrote as “present stimulus material.”

At some point it makes sense that the trainer ought to provide learners with new information.  You cannot simply facilitate discussions all day.  I had a boss once who expressed many great ideas in imaginative ways and one thing he said about facilitators always made me smile:  “Nobody ever learned anything from a pure facilitator.  The best they can do is to pool all the ignorance in the room.”

I agree, but I also have a problem with “presenters” and I would amend my boss’ comment to say that “few people retain anything that comes from a pure presenter.”  In fact, I have often argued that Power Point has done more to prevent learning than to aid it, simply because it is so easy to create a deck of content, display it, and read it to the audience.

I can’t think of any approach to learning that is more dangerous, boring and wasteful than reading Power Point slides to an audience, and yet I am victimized by it at least once a week.

This is why instructional designers take into account the various learning styles of those to be taught, and create a plan for instructional methods and accompanying media to achieve two ends.  First, the content has to be organized in meaningful, chewable and digestible chunks, similar to the way you learned to write letters in elementary school, writing lower and upper case, one letter at a time.  Second, to accommodate the varied learning styles, new content must be delivered in various ways.

Let me give you a quick example of a common approach that is efficient and aids retention. Suppose I have a five-step process I want you to learn.  I might have it on a PP slide, or on a prepared flip chart, concealed for the time being.  Now I ask you, “If you were going to do this (process/procedure/task), what would you do first, second and so on? Work within your group and develop a process.”

I could debrief all the group responses, then show the best practice process, revealing the slide, and then lead a discussion about what is best to do and why.  Usually the learners retain the content because they have an opportunity to contrast it with their own ideas, and to self-discover the best way. The learners can apply the material to their own life experiences and internalize the content.

When you have new material to present, do you mix it up a bit and get people engaged? Or do you present it from a deck?  You can see that this step requires some sophisticated design.

We’ll look at Step Five, “provide learning guidance,” on Friday.  Meanwhile…

Think Like Your Customer


About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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