Did you know that when you’re teaching people new information, you need a time machine so you can go back in time to expand their memory capacity so that they can learn better? This may sound far-fetched, like some crazy science fiction plot. But today, I’m going to teach you how to be better able to help your audience understand your content by giving them a little blast from the past. Here’s one story about a time when my memory capacity imploded.
Carried by excitement, lost in overwhelm
About a year and a half ago, I had signed up for my very first digital course. I was so excited to sign up for this program about how to build your business. It was not only a very well recognized course, but it also seemed like exactly what I needed to launch my business. After I had enrolled, I was given instant access to the course and eagerly looked at the course material. It was a lot of information. So. Much. Information. It was so much information; I was just frozen in information overload. I could barely think of what to do next.
I didn’t think I was ready….
In the digital course, a schedule had been laid out, detailing what modules we would be covering each week. But as I started to go through all the content for the course, it started to hit me what I had signed up for. I was feeling so overwhelmed. After looking at all the course material, I didn’t feel ready to take this course–even though I was. I started to feel so self-conscious because I had no idea how I was going to be able to complete this course and then launch my business. I didn’t believe I could complete this course that I had been so excited to enroll in. So, drowning in overwhelm, I didn’t even finish the first module. I was so intimidated by the sheer amount of the content, along with what I was supposed to do with it when the course was done.
I had bought a bit of ‘self-help.’
I wanted to tell you this story because I don’t want your audience to feel the same anxiety and dread that I felt, after feeling so excited at first. You don’t want them to sign up for your digital course, or to read your content, and just feel these waves of overwhelming wash over them, and then freeze and check out of what you’re offering. What’s important to realize here is that it’s not about the readiness of your audience. Nor does it have to do with having too much good content. What’s at the heart of this is properly preparing your audience for the information you’re going to present to them.
Proper preparation is everything
As you know, over the past couple of blogs, we’ve talked about Robert Gagné’s nine events of instruction. The first two events are to gain your audience’s attention and help you help your audience understand the journey that you’re taking them on by detailing what the objectives of your content are.
So we’re now going to explore the third event of instruction: recall what your audience has been previously learned. This creates a relevant context for the new information you’ll be presenting.
And, if you noticed–I just did this very thing in this section. I brought back to mind that we have already covered the first two events of Gagné’s nine events of instruction.
Now that you know where we’ve been, I can tell you where we’re headed–learning the third event: using memory recall to help build on what your audience already knows to prepare them for your new material.
Memory recall: like a tune-up for your brain
One way to think about memory recall (also known as prior recall) is keeping maintenance on your car. Whether your car has been sitting around for a couple of weeks, or you use your car every day, eventually, your car will need a tune-up. You’ll need to have the oil changed; the tires rotated, the electrical system checked, the windshield wiper fluid replaced, the brakes checked, etc. We keep our cars in shape so that they can last longer. Keeping your car on a proper maintenance schedule extends the life of your car as well as keeps repair costs lower. Our brains work in similar ways. According to brain research, when you ask people to recall what they have previously learned, this helps prepare the brain for new information. It not only keeps neurons “tuned up” and also creates paths for new ones to form. Memory retrieval keeps your brain nimble, and in better working order by making newer and stronger connections to memories, it has previously acquired. So when you review previously learned information and connect it to new information, you’re helping to strengthen neural networks as well as creating space for new ones to form. (Mastin 2010).
Three ways to deliver memorable content through prior recall
Are you ready to take your time machine on a blast to the past to help your audience better learn and retain the information you’ve given them? Here are three effective ways to use prior recall to ensure that the content you deliver sticks in people’s minds.
1. Bring in previously learned content. Just like how I reminded you of the two previous blog posts in this series and what they covered, you can do the same thing with your content. Recall what you’ve previously covered. This also keeps your audience on track for what you are teaching them.
2. Have participants complete an experience survey. You can do this before you begin presenting new material. Ask them questions about the topic that you plan on discussing as a way to help them explore what they know and don’t know. Are they understanding what you’re presenting? Is this new information or a refresher. By completing this survey, bridges between similar experiences can be created as well as new connections.
3. Have discussions with participants. What does your audience think about your topic? Where do they think this content is going? You can use inference, based on past experiences, to help them to identify where they think you’re going and how it relates to them. Again, this will help create connections between past experiences and knowledge with the new knowledge you’re giving them.
What I want for you is to be a well-known thought leader, in your industry or market. I want you to be someone who can deliver effective, efficient information to the right audiences. I want your audience to feel then empowered with the information you’ve given them. This doesn’t happen from creating a simple video and calling it “training.”People’s lives will change when they learn. And learning requires a variety of strategies and techniques linked together to help our brain understand, apply, and evaluate information. This goes beyond being one of those speakers who put up a video and calls it training. What we’re here to do is to help people to improve their lives for the better.
Give your audience a shot at growth
So remember, from Gagné’s nine events of instruction, we’ve covered three events so far. The first event is to capture your audience’s attention–typically through a catchy headline or a dazzling graphic. The second event is to help your audience understand where they’re going with your material with course objectives. The third event is what I discussed today–using prior recall to help build on previous knowledge and experience. Let me know what you think about the prior recall. Drop me in a note in the comments below. I look forward to chatting with you!