Some days it’s Mac & Cheese and others it’s a slow cooked Beef Brisket with all of the trimmings. (Insert your own personal metaphor here!) I’ll explain as we go.
The practice of instructing others so that they can gain independence, is many things. It is intimidating & a time intensive. It’s also a professional investment, and requires patience. It is also mentally demanding and because of that can be quite exhaustive.
But this article isn’t some rant about how teaching has some prices to pay before the investment reaps rewards. Not at all! Not everyone is cut out to instruct. But for those that are (and those that have), each lesson has the looming specter of attention loss in the background.
I’m talking about the lack of, or refusal for ‘students’ to engage. The risky situation that no matter what your best efforts try to achieve, result in what is the worst case scenario for any instructor—attempting to teach an audience that simply isn’t ‘there.’
You see I’ve taught countless lessons, and I have literally (and legitimately) taught teenagers how to handle explosives, as well as other skills where the difference in a single digit can literally result in fatalities.
But those were some of the ‘easier’ subject to instruct on. These subjects were slow cooked beef brisket.
They were appealing, demanded respect and focus. Most of all they were easy to capture and maintain the attention of the audience.
But not everything is Beef Brisket!
There are other subjects that are Mac & Cheese . . . Boring! Necessary but Boring! The worst thing is that some of the material can be relatively simple to communicate—such as teaching a Sales specialist the difference between two products, and the consequences that come with getting them confused.
Despite having immediate needs for knowledge and consequences, sometimes, Mac & Cheese just won’t get accepted or eaten by your audience. Your audience will look at it & leave it there . . . saving themselves for something better!
And there it is! In this week’s video I go through some of the main reasons that students tune out, but it boils down to one simple thing. We pay attention to what’s, useful, important . . . sexy!
Sometimes subject matter just isn’t sexy! It’s about getting your audience to pay attention. So how do you get your audience to tune in to boring matter?
What is attention?
Attention is a cocktail of reward & tension. Your training regardless of the matter must ‘give’ something. There has to be a value & reward with it. There also needs to be the threat of ‘take’, that there must be consequence attached to it.
If you constantly provide value and reward then this will likely be accepted as a sure thing and the audience tunes out. If you over embellish reward the audience will tune out. If there is nothing other than risk, then the audience will accept the downside outcome and tune out.
When you’re dealing with mac & cheese and can’t explain why, the audience won’t even sit down at the table. What I have found to work best when it comes to dealing with ‘Mac & Cheese’ is to show its value elsewhere.
And showing value needs to be done carefully. Explaining that a dry subject which wants to push your audience away has value will keep them interested for a bit longer, but context needs to be added carefully.
If you show the full value early then you’ve just given your audience the best part of your training early enough for them to disengage.
Building and escalating on value, while building the bigger picture tends to have the best results, until you can get into something more interesting . . . like some brisket!