Are you a visual learner? Oh good?

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One of the clichés I hear all the time to defend slides or to support adding something visual to a presentation is the claim that “I am a visual learner”. In the last century, a bit of pop science proclaimed that there were visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners, and that each had to be considered. In other words, teachers, speakers, and anyone else who is trying to communicate should talk to auditory learners, show pictures to visual learners, and jump for kinesthetic learners.

This resulted in a lot of bad pedagogy, not to mention the visual aids. The science behind this idea has never been good, and subsequent brain research has completely discredited it.

Here is the trick: we are all visual learners. By far the most important part of our brain receiving new stimuli is visual. So the idea that there are three types of people, all of which need special treatment when it comes to communicating, is simply wrong.

Of course, there are individual variations in how quickly and how we learn new things, but we all learn in much the same way and we all absorb more information through the eyes than in any other way.

What does this mean for the speakers? This means that your audience should be able to see you. Truly. It is that simple. It also means that it’s important to visually interact with them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a slide. And that definitely doesn’t mean a slide with words on it. This means that anything you can offer to increase the visual richness of the experience you deliver to audiences is both welcome and likely to increase retention and potency.

So use props, slides, videos, costumes, lighting, sets – all possible elements of the staging that the audience will experience visually. And don’t ignore the opportunities that both sound and movement present, as we are all auditory and kinesthetic learners equally. Just mostly visual.

And don’t settle for one person standing behind a podium buzzing about a topic in front of an audience. Because it’s not visually stimulating, not auditory interesting, and certainly not kinesthetically fascinating. If you are a podium speaker, now is the time to improve your game and find out how to put on a show.

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