Feature: Speak Their Language

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TrainerConsultant hypnotherapist, trainer and life coach Lynda Hudson explains how carefully chosen language can help you engage learners with different learning styles.

Much has been written about different learning styles and probably most people are familiar with the notion of the preferred modes of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (VAK) learning. Trainers frequently bring in activities that include these learning styles but what if we could include these in our language too?

Enhance your visual appeal
No, I don’t mean wear your best dress or wear a bow tie! I mean see how many visual expressions or metaphors you can bring into your speech. Imagine that you are training a new telephone system and as you think about this now, picture yourself in your training room asking your trainees to see themselves looking confident using this new system, getting them to notice the advantages of the new system over the old, ask them to look out for short cuts, see their way to encouraging their staff, asking them to describe how a function works. Notice for yourself how you probably have a tendency to use one kind of expression more than another. Most of us do so and if we overdo it, we can easily bore, if not alienate, half our course participants just because we are not using their preferred language!

Get a grip!
As well as using more visual language, why not set yourself the task of getting more kinaesthetic appeal into your words. In addition to physically getting people to take part in activities, why not work some ‘feeling’ or ‘touch’ expressions into what you say? Ask them if they feel comfortable with using the new system, ask why it is difficult to get to grips with this aspect, what do they feel about taking this back into the workplace? Explain that you have been grappling with the problem of the best way to explain this function and decided that the best solution is to divide them into groups and award a bar of chocolate to the group that comes up with the clearest explanation.

Pearls of wisdom
Of course, some people do love to learn through listening and will enjoy just sitting back absorbing your every pearl of wisdom, but we can still make our language have more instant auditory appeal too. How about amusing yourself with finding some auditory expressions that give much the same meaning as the ones used in bold above? You can find a few suggestions in the box below. Of course, sometimes it’s impossible to find an exact equivalent for every expression but the point I’m making is that when we make more conscious use of our own language, we can have a remarkably positive effect at the unconscious level on our listeners’ interest and degree of engagement.

Auditory expressions
Imagine you can hear yourself, hear your confident voice putting your customer through, tell somebody/explain to somebody how it works. Talk over the advantages, talk through the method, does it sound good to you? How does it sound? Discuss every aspect of the problem.

Set objectives for yourself as well as your participants
If we have a natural preference for training through speaking (as many of us do) we may well find that there is rather too much ‘trainer talking time’, not enough ‘seeing’ and ‘doing’ activities and not much variety in our language. Setting specific objectives for yourself and plans for how you will carry them out dramatically enhances the likelihood of achieving your aims

Possible Objectives:
* Cut down trainer talking time by 20%.
* Devise trainee discovery learning activities rather than reliance on trainer explanation.
* Include more visuals in terms of pictures, diagrams (not just words on power point).
* Introduce more visual and kinaesthetic expressions into trainer’s own language.

Winning over Mr or Mrs Reluctant
If you have a slightly reluctant participant in the group, you can experiment with trying to discover their own preferred means of expression. Listen to the words they use (if you can get them to speak, that is!) and try to pick up on them. Using their words can make all the difference. As you begin to play with these ideas, you can have fun with being inclusive of different preferred thinking styles in one sentence eg. ‘Lets have a word about how you see yourselves putting this into practice back in the workplace’

The first few minutes
Remembering that your group will make up its mind about you often in the first few minutes of the training, it is useful to plan your opening remarks to be as inclusive as possible. Speed of speech is also relevant and is sometimes linked to VAK preferences too; people who think in pictures will often speak pretty quickly, frequently preferring a higher pitch, auditory thinkers will use (and like to listen to) expression and variety in the voice, while people who think in feelings tend to speak more slowly and prefer a lower pitch. Professional public speakers frequently try to take account of this and vary speed and pitch as well as incorporate a great variety of VAK language during the first five minutes of a talk or presentation in order to interest all thinking and learning styles as far as possible.

Know your stuff
A lot to think about in the first five minutes when you try it out for the first time so it’s important to ‘know your stuff’ as regards the course content. Once you know the content inside out, why not set yourself little tasks and see it as a game for yourself, finding out which introductions are the most powerful, friendly and helpful in terms of grabbing attention and getting everyone on side at the outset?

Overworked expressions
Finally, a useful tip to find out about your own speed and variety of speech is to take a tape recorder and record a part of your presentation. Be prepared for some home truths when you play it back to yourself later though. When I did it, I was horrified to discover how often I said ‘OK’; my speech was littered with the with the little blighters! Very useful feedback however and it proved the basis for my next course objective for myself; to cut down by half the number of times I said OK; needless to say I didn’t achieve my goal in that training but it did make me far more aware of it and I have succeeded over time in cutting down. Could you try this tip to cut out or cut down on your own overworked expressions? For example: "you know"; "whatever"; "like".

* Linda Hudson has released a dual track CD Top Tips for Trainers and Confident Presentations, For more information click here

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