Before deciding on how you want to deliver your content, first you need to do pre-course research and create your outline.
In this post you’re going to learn:
- Why HOW you present your content matters
- The 2 key pieces to effective course presentations
- 5-psychology backed tips for engaging content
Okay so now that we understand our peeps, we know exactly what we are teaching, we have to figure out how we want to teach that information.
The outline you’ve just created and the core concepts you’re teaching is like the floor plan of a house. You know how many rooms there are, where the bathrooms are, if there’s an upstairs, etc.
HOW you present those concepts is like the interior design and (it’s unique to you + your brand). There are a variety of ways that you can style it so it captures people’s attention, it’s inviting, and people want to stick around to hang out.
Content Delivery Matters
I want you to think back to your favorite class in high school or college.
What made you LOVE that class and had you actually showing up day after day, instead of shutting off your alarm and sleeping for another hour? (I only love my bed and my mama, I’m sorry!)
Chances are you loved that class because of a combination of:
- Genuinely being interested in the subject
- The teacher made the content engaging
Student interest in the topic + an engaging teacher = the highest probability of student engagement and success.
Luckily, if you’re creating an online course for your peeps, them being genuinely interested in the topic is kiiiinda a given (assuming you did your research! Learn more here).
But honestly, the teacher making content engaging is more important than the subject itself.
I’ve had classes where the topic was boring AF but the teacher brought it to life. I’ve also had classes where I was SO interested in the topic, but the teacher made it a total snore fest.
Think about the differences in the way you felt in your favorite class versus your least favorite one, and how that impacted your overall experience. This also brings in another key player: human emotions.
A presentation that’s fun and engaging is going to make someone feel differently than something that’s boring or hard to understand. If you can make your peeps have fun and FEEL good as they are learning from you, you’re subconsciously incentivizing them to keep coming back to learn more (i.e. people are more likely to actually complete your course instead of it rotting away in their digital graveyard).
We’ve have established that for the best results we need students who are interested in the topic, engaged with the material, and enjoying their learning experience. How do we accomplish this?
Here are 5 tips that are rooted in psychology that will make your presentations fun, engaging, and aligned with how the brain actually learns.
Here’s how do to it:
When it comes to learning, adults learn differently than children.
Children are new to the world and they’re taking in tons of new information at all times. Their brains are busy building NEW connections for the first time.
Adults on the other hand have years of life, education, and experience already under their belts. So when adults take in new information, our brains make meaning of it by relating it back to what we already know and understand.
For example, if I were to ask you to picture something 1,250 feet tall, you might have a hard time conceptualizing that.
Now if you’re from the US and I told you something was 1,250 feet tall, which is the same height as the Empire State Building, you’d have a better idea on how tall it actually is (even if you’ve never been there). If you’re from Europe, I’d say it’s about as tall as the Eiffel Tower.
Use what people already know to give context to new concepts. It can mean the difference between your content actually being stored in your students’ brains, and it going in one ear and out the other.
A helpful tip: for important concepts, try to use more than one comparison or example to make sure it will resonate. Comparisons only work if your audience understands the examples you’re using. So if you’re a business coach trying to compare different pieces of a marketing plan to a car engine, if your audience doesn’t understand the way a car engine works in the first place, that won’t be helpful for them.
The best way to RETAIN information is through quizzing. This is because instead of passively listening, it forces us to actually THINK about what we are learning to come up with an answer. Sounds unsexy, I know. But it doesn’t have to be!
Most courses follow a linear format and use presentations to teach the information, and THEN give workbooks for students to apply the information.
Here’s a secret: application doesn’t have to *only* be in workbook format. It can be built into the presentation itself by asking meaningful quiz-like questions. Get creative with it, we aren’t taking the SAT’s here!
The result? Active learning that increases the odds of your content actually being absorbed and retained. Keep this one in your back pocket if you have a lot of binge watchers!
Give learning options
You might have heard of the VARK learning theory. VARK says that there are 4 ways that people learn, and most people learn best from 1-2 of them. The VARK learning styles are: visual, auditory (hearing), reading, and kinesthetic (learning by doing).
This has actually been disproven, and studies show people CAN learn in all ways, even ways that aren’t their primary learning style. However, for adults, just because they CAN learn from different ways doesn’t mean they WANT to. This is where learning preferences come into play.
If I login to a course and see 20 face to cam videos, I am not going to be motivated to learn the material no matter how interested I am in the topic.
Switch it up and give people a variety of options to learn from. Include presentations, transcripts, face-to-cam videos, and workbooks and journaling exercises. Offering a buffet of options to consume the content will allow your learners to have options for how they’d like to engage with the material.
Though we have different learning preferences, humans rely on vision more than any other sense. Using visuals in your content can help people wrap their brains around the information they’re learning. This is especially helpful for describing the steps or pieces in your overall course framework.
A couple common examples are cycles, processes, and parts of a whole. Here are ways you could visualize those:
If I had a dollar for every time I saw an *ahem* less than stellar slide… I would be as rich as Taylor Swift.
Ineffective slides are hands down the biggest issue I see with courses.
Our brains can only hold so many pieces of information at a time. This is called our working memory. There’s some debate over how much it can hold, but the general consensus is somewhere between 4 and 7 pieces of information. It’s why if I asked you to remember a number and repeat it back to me in a minute, it would be easier to do it with 347 than with 964,839,578.
What’s this have to do with slides?
The more words you have jammed on your slides, the less cognitive energy your students have to understand the important stuff. Your students simultaneously listening to everything you’re saying, reading walls of text, and processing pretty (but meaningless) design elements is not a recipe for success.
The first slide below (from my free Presentations that Pop training) is more effective from a cognitive load perspective, than the Canva template below that. Your slides don’t need to be created by a graphic designer to be effective. In fact, simple slides beat complicated slides every time.
There’s nothing wrong with Canva template example, however, the graphics shown aren’t supporting learning and they’re just there for decorative purposes. My rule of thumb is that if it isn’t enhancing the learning that’s happening, it doesn’t need to be on my slide.
A helpful tip: Your slides should be clean, simple, and complement what you are saying (NOT repeat it). If your students can fully understand a lesson just by reading the slides, there’s too much information on them.
Incorporating these tips into your presentations will make them more engaging, and will have people coming back for more!
- How you present your course content matters, because how your learners experience your content will determine if they want to come back for more
- Use comparisons and examples to describe key concepts
- Engage your learners during presentations by asking quiz-style questions
- Give your learners a variety of ways to learn (video, visuals, transcripts, workbooks, etc.)
- Use visuals to make frameworks (processes, cycles, parts of a whole) more digestible
- Simple slides beat fancy ones every time; only include elements related to learning and ditch the rest