Monthly Archives: March 2011

Train-the-Trainer Tips: 7 Ways to Organize Lecture

In the 4MAT model, lecture happens in the step called “Inform”. In our 4MAT Train-the-Trainer sessions, we invite trainers and instructional designers to evaluate what it takes to deliver lecture well. “Well-organized” consistently shows up as the key criteria we all tend to use to evaluate lectures. Learners often describe painful lectures as “wandering”, “disorganized” and “all over the place”. There are many ways you can organize lecture. In this post, we will explore 7 Ways to Organize Lecture. Before we explore how to organize, let’s reflect on “How much is too much (lecture)?” and “How long is too long?”

How long is too long?

We explored the issue of “How Long is Too Long” when it comes to lecture in a previous post. According to brain expert, Dr. John Medina, we tend to drift off in lecture after the first quarter hour:

“Peer-reviewed studies confirm my informal inquiry: Before the first quarter-hour is over in a typical presentation, people usually have checked out. If keeping someone’s interest in a lecture were a business, it would have an 80 percent failure rate.”

What trainers and instructional designers need to know about the limits of human attention :

-We tend to pay attention according to some “stubborn timing pattern”. In my experience, this pattern runs in 10-15 minute increments. Without some shift in delivery approach, learners tend to drift off.  Next to “organized”, the second most cited criteria by learners for evaluating lecture is “entertaining”. There are many ways to shift the delivery approach and increase the entertainment factor: stories, images, interactive processing, visual organizers, visual data presentation, and props all work to entertain and engage.

How much is too much?

 -Our working memory can only hold so much information. A good rule of thumb is 5 bits of information, plus or minus 2. When structuring your lecture, challenge yourself to identify the main topics and limit the total to 7 maximum. 5 is even better. Create an experience to reflect and process each of the main topics within your lecture.

Organizing Your Lecture

Once you focus the content, you can then think about how you will organize the delivery of the content. The most obvious way to organize delivery of content is by topics. For example, if you were teaching a product knowledge course, an obvious way to organize lecture would be by product categories.  There are many other ways that you can structure the organization of the information. Think about how the learner will use the information to help you determine the best way to structure the delivery of the content.

Here are 7 ways to organize lecture including examples of how this might look in a product knowledge course on  haircare products.

1. Topics-organize the training content by categories or subject

Example: The lecture is structured into “shampoos”, “conditioners” and “styling aids”.

2. Problem and Solution-organize the training content around common problems  learners face and how the content being explored provides a solution

Example:  The lecture is structured around the “5 most common complaints” customers have about their hair such as “My hair is flat.” or “My curl is frizzy.”

3. Cause and Effect-organize the training content around how specific actions create different results

Example: The lecture is organized around the causes of common hair issues and how the products work to address these issues. One cause might be “humidity” with illustrations of how some products attract humidity to produce more curl and others decrease humidity to maintain straightness of hair.

4. Pros and Cons-organize the training content by comparing and contrasting the advantages and disadvantages of one thing over another

Example: Products can be compared and contrasted to competitive products with highlights on what makes “our” product better.

5. Acronym-create acronyms to help the learner understand the structure of the content delivery and to improve retention of the information

Example: The acronymn “ESP” might be used to organize the lecture.

E-Engage the client by asking the right questions.

S-Share the right product solution, linking the product to the client’s needs based on the client’s answers.

P-Provide the client with product usage information and tips.

6. Timelines-organize the training content in past-present-future orientation.

Example: Products can be explored based on when they were introduced.

7. Visual-organize the content using a visual organizing structure such as icons or color coding.

Example:  Visual icons are introduced at the beginning of the lecture which represent the different needs of different haircare clients. The icons are used as a coding system to identify the type of clients which would find each product appealing.

What other organizing structures would you add to the list?