One of the benefits to working where I do is getting to learn from some amazing people while on the job. Last week, I had the great pleasure of hearing the inimitable Russell Brown share his thoughts on making learning fun.
If you don’t know who that is, this is Russell:
And what Russell is know for more than anything is his brilliant, funny, and engaging teaching style. So getting to hear him talk about how to do what he does is a real privilege. True to form, Russell showed up for the class in full Abe Lincoln regalia and proceeded to talk for the next 50 minutes with just a stack of paper and a screen projector (plus a few prizes) to help him out.
Amidst the schtick and the fun, I came away with some great ideas. I’ve boiled it down to three key takeaways, all closely interrelated:
Technology is a Crutch
Russell gave his session assisted only by a screen projector, and he did it to make a point. As great as all of today’s tools are, they’re just tools. Relying on them too much gets in the way of a good presentation, because learning is about a lot more than just pretty pictures on a screen. Really effective communication engages all the senses.
There’s also the secondary benefit that if you’re not overly dependent on technology, if for some reason you run into a technology fail (no wifi, laptop crash, forgot your dongle, etc) you’ll still be able to do your thing.
Make It Fun
“Any presentation can be a success if you can get your audience to laugh three times” – Russell attributed this quote to our co-founder Chuck Geschke. It goes beyond just getting people to laugh, though. It’s about keeping them relaxed, engaged in the moment, and open to learning. There’s always the risk that you’ll take it too far and people will have so much fun they’ll forget to learn something, but since most of us are not Russell Brown, the risk is far higher that you’ll just bore everyone and lose them that way.
This is especially true today, when it takes just a few seconds to switch focus from a boring presentation to an unending stream of email, twitter, Facebook, news, and more. Make it fun and they’ll keep their phones in their pockets and their attention on the topic.
Using interactive and analog components not only keeps people engaged, but it gives them a goal to aim for and increases how well they retain information. Russell talked a lot about how he brings in real-world components to his training classes, so that there’s a tangible result to their digital efforts at the end of the day.
This is where technology is not a crutch, but a great addition to learning. How much more engaging is it to not only create a design, but to imprint it onto an actual teapot that you can take home at the end of the day? Wouldn’t that inspire you to try harder in class?
Ultimately, all of this serves the goal of getting people to remember more of the lessons you just taught them.
The last takeaway Russell shared was to know your audience. Ninja cutouts hanging from the ceiling and a crazy costume might not go over so well if you’re presenting to a room full of lawyers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your session. Just do it in a way that will work for your audience.
So how are you going to make YOUR next presentation more fun?