Public Speaking Information

Is Information Delivery Instruction?

Do you work for one of those organisations whose "training" invariably consists of someone standing up in front of a group and saying something? If you answered 'yes', you're not alone. It's a common practice which leads to a widely held perception among many that it's training. It's a perception that has annoyed me over many years. I'm not against information sessions ... they have their place. What I am against is calling them 'training sessions'.

Information sessions are very useful for, strangely enough, disseminating information. They are next to useless for transferring learning. True, you can run an information session advising staff in a credit union that the interest rate has risen from 6.3% to 6.7% and that from hereon they are to use that rate in all transactions. It would be hard to argue that there wasn't at least an element of learning involved (and by inference, training). After all, everyone who attended probably learnt that the new rate of interest is 6.7%.

But consider the long-winded, verbose information session. How much does anyone expect to learn from that? The problem with these types of sessions is that there is usually no learning focus ie, by way of learning outcomes or objectives, no structure in the content, no practice, and little guidance in what to remember and what not to remember. It's simply a matter of ... 'This morning I'm going to tell you about the new procedures for ....' And then, blah, blah with dozens of overhead projection slides.

I've attended possibly thousands of information sessions. I'm an information junkie. It's an illness I've never been able to overcome. I just have to attend everything that sounds like it is relevant or interesting for which I have time (and sometimes the money). I don't go to learn specific facts, but to hear others' points of view. I may recall some outstanding facts and opinions, but as time passes and I move onto the next information session, the content of the previous one is forgotten.

Occasionally I write notes about what I heard and I link them to things that are relevant to me. This helps me to consolidate major themes and also provides a source of reference when I want to revisit the concepts or principles again. In some cases, just writing the topic and linking it to what is relevant to me makes a huge difference.

Recently the definition of what is, or is not training or learning, has been blurred by the different ways in which we now facilitate learning. Essentially, we still learn the same way, but the method of processing the content is different. For example, just-in-time training uses a demand/supply methodology ... we learn something just before we need it so that we don't carry around a bag full of knowledge, skills or attitudes that we may never use. Online learning is a model that should still use structure, repetition, revision, assessment, feedback and all the other good things learning involves. Then there's on-the-job learning which is still popular, but doesn't differentiate between accurate learning and learning from low performers who perpetuate their performance in others.

Improving Your Info Sessions

You can improve the value of an information session by doing just a few simple things. If the session is intended just to tell someone what a great trip to China you had, it really doesn't matter what they remember. If you are telling someone about the new, revised procedures of your firm, focus on the changes that have occurred between the old procedures and the new procedures. At the end of the session ask questions to clear up doubtful points, then give your audience a summary of the changes to which they can refer when needed as a memory aid.

Alternatively, if the information session is about something else, consider this; if there are more than about five to nine key points to make, break the session into several sub-sessions and do not handle more than the five to nine points in each. Write the key points you intend to make on a whiteboard or display them on a projector screen in point form. Then address each point concisely and accurately. Explain the how, what, when, where and why of each point. Ask your audience if there are any questions, answer them and tick off each point before moving to the next point.

By not exceeding say seven points (the middle of the range) you reduce the chances of detrimental information overload. The visual cue helps your audience to 'home in' on the topic you are addressing, to recall what has been finished, and know what is to follow. They can then mentally separate content into meaningful and manageable 'parcels'. This chunking will result in an information session becoming as near to a training session as possible without crossing the border.

When you do the next session in a series, have a short revision session. Ask some questions to get people thinking about the topic. For example. 'Last session we covered five key points to consider when analysing financial statements ... what was one of them ... [pause] ... John?" This helps establish a mental link between the previous and current topic.

Information certainly ain't instruction, but it can be much more effective with a little planning, structure and effort. At your next information session, give some of these ideas a run. You'll find they are much more successful.

Copyright Robin Henry 2005

Robin Henry is a human resources and development specialist and Internet marketer. He operates his online business, Desert Wave Enterprises, from Central Australia.

He has written articles about a range of topics, many of which are at Others are accessible from his site at

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at

FFA member takes sixth at State Public Speaking
Mount Vernon News
MARYSVILLE — Recently, Maribeth Pozderac, a Fredericktown FFA member, attended the State Public Speaking Contest to represent Knox County and District 7 in the Extemporaneous Public Speaking portion of the contest. The event was held at Marysville ...

Cult of Mac

Master the art of public speaking [Deals]
Cult of Mac
There are few things more stressful than public speaking. But there are also few opportunities to make an impact with your ideas or message. Just think of Steve Jobs, and what comes to mind? Probably a mental image of him speaking on stage. The ...

Above the Law

Flavors Of Public Speaking: What's On The Menu For Your Speech?
Above the Law
When we think of public speaking, it seems rather straightforward. At its essence, public speaking is the process of delivering a speech in front of a live audience. However, there are as many styles of public speaking as there are speakers! For every ...
Speech contest focuses on role of social media in personal relationshipsUConn Daily Campus

all 2 news articles »

Brandon Frere on Public Speaking From the CEO's Perspective
PR Newswire (press release)
This includes leading and inspiring everyone from executives, managers, and employees. Whether it's a small leadership meeting or a company-wide get-together, effective public speaking creates an atmosphere where team members are more focused and ...

and more »

The Guardian

Terrified of public speaking? Start with what you really want to say
The Guardian
“I want you to stick two fingers between your teeth vertically, then say a line from a nursery rhyme.” Biting my hand while trying to talk is less comfortable than lying on my back huffing out breaths to a count of 10, which is what I have been doing ...

3 Public Speaking Tips You've Probably Never Thought About
If you Google "public speaking tips," you'll find a plethora of articles on the subject. Some are helpful, but others ... not so much. So, how do you distinguish between useful methods and shady tricks that will only diminish the quality of your ...

Above the Law

Public Speaking: 3 Key Reasons To Take The Plunge
Above the Law
Public speaking, whether it's in front of a small meeting or a large audience, can be intimidating. To be a great public speaker, you need to engage with an audience, command their attention, and leave them with a lasting message. And before all that ...
5 Public-Speaking Tips From Seasoned ExpertsEntrepreneur

all 2 news articles »

March For Our Lives: Students Teach Us A Lesson In Public Speaking
The high school students who have mobilized the movement “March for Our Lives” have shown us, adults, what a group of motivated and determined young people can achieve when they become engaged in an issue of importance – school safety. On March 24 ...

Reporter Magazine

Warding off Weak Knees: Tips for Public Speaking
Reporter Magazine
It's an all too familiar feeling. Your hands and legs begin to shake, the butterflies in your stomach start fluttering and next thing you know you are up in front of a crowd about to give a speech or presentation. Whether for a small class project or ...

Burlington County Times

Moorestown nonprofit teaches girls public speaking through the arts
Burlington County Times
Moorestown comedian Dena Blizzard teamed up with a group of fellow female artists to create Ladies Out Loud, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching high school-aged girls speaking tools through the arts. MOORESTOWN — Dena Blizzard was tired of being the ...

Google News

home | site map
© 2006