Often times you are asked to speak to an audience to teach them something or to impart some form of knowledge.
While we may be focused on our own selves as speakers, we often forget that 50% of the battle is won when you understand your audience.
Each audience is different. And hence, they all comprehend information differently.
As speakers, it’s important for us to understand that, take the effort to find out how our particular audience learns best, and impart our knowledge in that manner.
So let’s get into the 6 different types of learners and how you can adjust your talk to have a maximum impact on each of these audiences.
Here’s a small table to get you started off and below you will find a deep-dive into all the types of learners, how to speak to different types of learners, what kind of learner are you, how to teach different learners in classroom settings and how to find out how your audience learns best!
|Learner type||How do they learn best?||How to teach them?||You’re this type of learner if you…|
|Writing||When they put pen to paper||Use material such as quizzes and handout notebooks where they are encouraged write down key points||Learn best by writing (duh!) and copying recently recited or read material|
|Visual||Graphs, images, presentations, videos||Story tell through a slide presentation, use graphs, tables or videos||Learn best through graphs and images|
|Solitary||Require special attention and take their own time to learn||Help them out a little on a one-on-one level by understanding where they are struggling (tricky in large audiences), provide contact details so they can reach out to you on a personal level after your talk||Learn best one-on-one|
|Kinesthetic||Through their body and experiential learning||Let the audience interact with the information you’re providing through some sort of exercise or role-playing game||Learn best through experiential learning and by actually doing the activity|
|Group||Collaborative learning and team effort||Group discussions or collaborative efforts where the audience is required to team up and come up with solutions||Like team activities and prefer a social learning environment|
|Audio||Narration and re-narration; music||Narrate a story and make them repeat key points||Learn best through sound and narration|
Deep-Dive Into the Types of Learners
Learning by Audio
Auditory learners learn best when information is spoken to them. In terms of being a speaker, it’s best to have an audience who learns through your narration as this allows you to do what you to best – speak!
Auditory learners tend to repeat information that they have just heard. That’s how they reinforce the information into their minds. Narration and re-narration helps them remember better.
When speaking to an audience are auditory learners, tell a story instead of showing them text. When you do say something important, ask them to repeat it out loud.
Check out our extensively written article on All You Need to Know about Voice Modulation & Tonality for Public Speaking to know more about this.
Many speakers, including the great Tony Robbins, do this. They will say something important. Then, a few moments later, they will repeat the same point but let the audience finish the sentence so as to help them remember better.
For example, if you’re talking about ‘how to be successful in business’ – you might say a sentence along the lines of “The most important thing when it comes to being successful in business is grit!”
Grit is the keyword here that you would want your audience to remember.
Since they are auditory learners and learn best by repeating, say the sentence again in your speech, but this time, don’t complete the sentence.
Say, “The most important thing when it comes to being successful in business is ___ (Point your hands to the audience signaling them to say the word grit)”.
That’s what will make them remember best!
Even people with musical tendencies tend to learn amazingly well with audio. This is why many gifted musicians can simply listen to a tune or rhythm and repeat it on their instrument.
Learning by Visuals
As the name suggests, these learners learn best when they have something to look at besides text or the spoken word.
In very simple words, they would prefer to watch a movie as opposed to read the book the movie was based on!
Visual learners tend to recollect information when they connect a piece of knowledge to a visual.
PowerPoint presentations, videos, graphs work really well for these type of learners.
As a speaker, if you can use a presentation, then great. If not, try to draw out your audience to some extent. For instance, if you’re talking about the ‘history of mankind’, instead of just talking about, draw out the sequence of the timeline down on a whiteboard or chart paper.
Learn more about how to maintain a correct body posture by reading our article on 5 Body Language Tips to Command the Stage
It will help the visual learner remember and recollect the information much more efficiently.
Learning by Writing
Back when I was in school, I came to the realization that no matter how much I read a certain subject, I could never remember the material as well as I could by simply writing it down.
And that’s the thing about writing learners, they learn best when they put pen to paper.
While speaking to a writing audience, use material such as quizzes so that they can write down what you have just spoken about.
Many speakers give out small notebooks to their audience before the talk begins. The audience is then asked to write down anything important that the speaker might say.
The speaker can even conduct small exercises with the audience using the written format.
For instance, the legendary speaker Jim Rohn would encourage his audience to keep a journal with them even after his seminar would get over so that they could write down different ideas they come across on a daily basis without forgetting them.
Learning by Action
Kinesthetic learners love to use their bodies to learn. Until they don’t physically do the action, they find it hard to remember the concept.
Kinesthetic learners tend to get restless when they are asked to sit and listen to someone talk for too long. They prefer movement and experiential learning.
You might have noticed an audience member’s leg shaking, checking his watch to see the time, moving around and just not being comfortably seated in one position.
For these learners, it’s best to break the speech up into segments wherein you speak for a certain amount of time and let the audience interact with the information you’re providing through some sort of exercise or role-playing game.
A few years ago, I was at this negotiation seminar where the speaker spoke to us about the basics of negotiation. Instead of stopping there, he then divided us into groups of two and made us role-play a scenario where we have to negotiate a deal with each other. Whoever can negotiate the best deal based on the tactics taught to us, wins a prize.
This brought out the competitive side in a lot of us as well and each one of us tried our hardest to win the negotiation.
It was fun! But the most important thing is, I remember the lessons from that seminar even today.
So have some games and interactive activities incorporated into your talk to make it more engaging and help kinesthetic learners learn better.
While people learn differently, there is no doubt that one person can have more than one learning style (I know I do!). It depends on your age, the setting you’re in, the subject, the speaker and a lot more things!
Learning in Groups
The social beings that we are, many of us are inclined to learn something with another person or a group of people. It’s why the concept of a work-out buddy or study partner is so popular.
These people prefer to have someone share their space and look at learning as a collaborative effort.
When it comes to studying, two people may meet to work on a certain subject by reciting to each other or quizzing them on different chapters. It helps keep things fun.
As a speaker, when you’re faced with an audience that loves to learn in groups, throw in some group activities in your talk! This is easier said than done of course as it’s always difficult to manage a group of people in a knowledge-oriented setting.
But by doing activities such as group discussions or collaborative efforts where the audience is required to team up and come up with solutions is a healthy way to engage group learners.
Learning in Solitary
While learning in a group is fun, it might not be the most effective for some people.
These are your solitary learners who prefer to be undisturbed in their efforts to comprehend something.
It’s why some students pay extra for private tuition for certain subjects as opposed to learning with their friends.
These people need special attention and take their own time to learn. This isn’t a bad thing at all.
The thing is, while solitary learners might take a while to learn something, once they do learn it, they learn it well.
Some people are quick learners but still prefer doing it alone.
I myself would rather work out alone as opposed to with a work-out buddy. I just don’t want to have anyone to rely on and I seem to progress quicker when I can go on my own pace and time.
As a speaker, communicating effectively to solitary learners can be tricky. For one thing, they might not even show up if they know you’re going to be speaking to a crowd of people.
But if they do, you can simply observe the crowd and try to identify anyone who is seeming like they are lost. Maybe they are not nodding like the other audience members, maybe they have a confused look on their face or maybe they are just not engaged after a certain point in time.
When this happens, during a break or after the talk, approach that audience member and ask them if they had any trouble comprehending the topic you spoke on. Help them out a little on a one-on-one level by understanding where they are struggling as that is the attention they require to learn effectively.
This method might not possible for extremely large events or talks though.
In such cases, you can also provide your contact details or your social accounts to the audience at the end of the talk and ask members to reach out to you in case they have any problem understanding particular portions of your speech.
This will give solitary learners a chance to reach out to you and get that personal learning.
What Kind of Learner Are You?
After reading about these types of learners, you might be wondering, “What type of learner am I?” Knowing so gives you another sense of self-awareness and you can directly jump into your preferred method of learning the next time you want to learn something.
If you learn best through graphs and images, you’re a visual learner.
If you learn best through sound and narration, you’re an auditory learner.
If you learn best through experiential learning, you’re a kinesthetic learner.
If you learn best by writing, you’re a writer learner, of course!
To understand what type of learner you are, simply look back at your life.
When did you learn something the best?
When did you struggle to learn something?
For me, I learn best with writing and kinesthetic learning.
When I write or do something, it sticks with me. Visual learning, auditory learning, learning in groups is not something I’m a big fan of. So I avoid it and choose processes that aid experiential learning such as small workshops. I also keep a journal next to me when I’m reading a book so I can write down any interesting ideas that I do not want to forget.
While I say that you’re a certain type of learner if you prefer a certain method of learning, it doesn’t mean you are confined to that box alone.
Learning happens differently to the same people at different points in their lives. You might have noticed that you might have learned math better when you had special attention from a teacher (solitary) as opposed to learning yoga, which you preferred to learn in a group setting.
So don’t confine yourself to any of these learner types. The point of this article is to help you get an idea of how you possibly learn best in different situations and how you can speak to different audiences who learn differently for maximum impact!
Which brings me to my next point:
Speaking to Different Learners
When speaking to an audience, there will be different types of learners within that crowd – everyone consumes information differently.
When you design your speech, it’s best to understand the context
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who is my audience (age, educational background, geography, etc.)?
- What is my subject?
- What is my speaking style?
1. Understanding the Audience
The first of these questions is the most crucial.
So for example, if your audience is an old group of intellectuals with high-value degrees, a bit of research may suggest that they learn best through audio (narration, speech and storytelling).
2. Understanding the Subject
However, if your subject is something technical that requires communicating a lot of statistics and data points, you might have to add some form of visual representation.
3. Understanding the Speaking Style
And if your speaking style is more interactive in nature, you might want to keep a few kinesthetic or writing exercises as well as you believe your audience receives it well when you are interactive with them.
In such a case, you for sure put your audience first. But don’t ignore the rest of the points.
For instance, keep the majority of your talk audio-oriented. Let your audience consume information the way they learn best for most of the speech. Have minimal visuals when you need to show them and have one interactive game at a time in your speech (maybe in the middle of your talk) when you want to shake things up a bit).
This makes the majority of your speech suit the auditory learner but still doesn’t ignore what your subject and your style are best suited for.
How to Speak to Different Learner Types in a Classroom Setting?
The difficulty with catering your talk to different learners when it comes to public speaking is that the audience you are speaking to can be very diverse and it’s hard to give individual attention to each one of them to understand what learning suits a particular member best.
This is easier (not easy) in a classroom where the teacher is exposed to the same students for a certain period of time where she can take the time out to understand each students’ learning type and teach that student accordingly.
If you are a teacher or speaking to the same group of people for multiple days, take the time out to identify how each student learns best and reinforce the lesson to them using that method.
1. Visual Learner
For a visual learner, write the question down in front of them and draw out how you are solving the answer so they can see how you are coming to the correct conclusion.
2. Auditory Learner
For an auditory learner, have another classmate explain to the student through words how he/she got the right answer.
3. Kinesthetic Learner
For a kinesthetic learner, do the exercise in a manner where you and the student are doing it together, almost simultaneously. They follow you as you are solving the problem so by the end of it, you both have the correct answer.
4. Writing Learner
For a writing learner, ask them to copy the question and solution on paper before attempting to solve it themselves.
5. Group and Solitary Learner
Group and solitary learners are a fairly obvious solution. While group learning might be easier to conduct in a classroom setting, solitary learning would require you to give a little more attention to the student after or before classroom hours.
Figuring Out How Your Audience Learns Best
If you don’t have the privilege to teach or speak to a particular group of people for a certain number of days, it’s hard to understand what teaching style should you go with to teach your audience most effectively.
The best way I have found to do this is simply – research and observing.
Research who your audience is before-hand in general when it comes to public speaking.
It is essential to know your audience while giving a speech. Learn how to do so by reading our article on The Importance of Knowing Your Audience When Delivering a Speech
You might already have a good idea of who your audience is because you would have targeted your subject to a particular target group.
If you’re still unsure, try reaching out to the person who invited you to speak or the one who is organizing the event where you will be speaking and ask them what type of crowd would most likely be attending.
If you’re delivering a speech at Toastmasters and are unsure of the audience, reach out to the Vice President of Education to understand the kind of crowd that attends that particular club.
Understand your audience and deduce what learning style would work best for them. If they are young, they probably prefer fun, kinesthetic learning.
If they are senior citizens, they might prefer narration and storytelling (audio).
If they are working professionals, understand the field they are in and respond accordingly. For instance, a finance professional would be able to consume data and statistics through visuals better and marketers would be able to consume storytelling better.
These are just examples of course. Regardless of age or profession, people can have different and multiple learning styles. Which is what makes this a little tricky.
Research your audience, try and find out what has worked for that audience in the past and observe how they are responding to your teaching/speaking style.
Overtime, you will know exactly how to communicate to different types of learners.