American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

About Your Audience

Involving the Audience | Adult Learners

Involving the Audience

One of the most frequent criticisms of educational programs is that they are conducted in a passive format; the speaker imparts knowledge while the audience listens impassively.

Here are some ways to keep the audience involved and interested:

  • Ask for their questions. All session formats include time for questions and answers. Be prepared! Before your presentation, think about what questions could be asked; formulate brief, clear answers to each and rehearse those answers. Develop some questions of your own to ask the audience if the question and answer period begins slowly. Throughout your presentation, ask questions of the group, if only for them to answer in their minds.
  • During your presentation, answer questions to clarify ambiguities immediately. Postpone questions related to resolving a specific problem to the end of the session. If someone asks a question that you can't answer, don't panic! You have several options:
    • Say that you will locate the answer and get back to them
    • Suggest appropriate resources that will provide the answer
    • Ask for suggestions from other members of the audience
  • Have attendees work with a partner or a small group to discuss scenarios, problems, or to share experiences, and use case studies, group discussions, role playing, etc., to keep your presentation moving.
  • Ask the attendees how they plan to apply your information.
  • Use samples (if applicable), quizzes, strategic plans, or other hands-on documentation for the audience to work with during the session.

Adult Learners

  • Adult learners are different from other types of audiences. They bring a wealth of experience to the session and have highly tangible reasons for attending a certain presentation:
    • Continuing Education credits
    • Networking opportunity
    • Upgrade their skills
    • Need information
    • Reputation of sponsor/speaker
  • Adult learners are goal-oriented and less flexible than other learners. They want a speaker to provide activities, guidance and materials that facilitate learning. They are more interested in a performance-based model of education, with the emphasis on:
    • Learning
    • Processing information
    • Applying new knowledge
  • The delivery/instructional method is as/more important than the quality of the information. Audiences want to get involved in the learning process. Adults want:
    • Active involvement in the learning process
    • To practice what they are learning
    • A physical and emotional atmosphere conductive to learning
    • To use their experience to reinforce and give meaning to learning
    • To focus on problems and how to solve them; this puts learning in context

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