Training Tweak: Demonstrations

A word I love finding in training sessions is “demonstrate” or “show”. This is quite a traditional training strategy which works from the understanding that you can learn by doing, and that skills can be developed by imitation.

A great thing about demonstration is that visual learners will get the idea much better when they can see it with their own eyes, rather than try to understand a verbal explanation.

There is however a particular method of demonstrating a skill that is (in my opinion) superior to many others. It will support visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners, while also reducing the need to retrain the brain after a skill has been imitated and learnt incorrectly (It takes about 40 instances of conscious effort to retrain the brain to do something the right way automatically, so let’s just get it right the first time!)

While many trainers may know know this demonstration method, I am spreading the message to anyone who can benefit from this tweak.

So let’s start by learning a little rhyme. Whenever you see the word “demonstrate” in a training session plan, you should be saying this in your head:

I show you once,

I show you slow,

We do it together,

Off you go!

These are the four steps to ensure a great demonstration. Let’s break it down a bit more.

1. I show you once

Emphasis on show. Close your mouth. This step is not an explanation – it is a full speed demonstration, providing an excellent example of what the skill should look like when done by a competent person.

2. I show you slow

Now you can talk while you show. This is your step by step explanation of what you just showed – sharing those tips and checks that a competent person knows, so learners will know when they have done it the right way. Learners can ask questions and clarify their understanding.

3. We do it together

Now its time for you to be quiet again. You are a puppet – the learners will tell you what to do, and you will do the skill. This helps them to clarify their understanding and show you that they have remembered all the key things. You can pick up mistakes before things are cemented into brains the wrong way. You can prompt with questions or ask for further direction if you need to. Using this format, everyone’s attention is still on the same person and same conversation. (Alternatively, if you can manage to keep everyone together, then each learner can do it at the same time while talking through the steps).

Note: This step is crucial, but it is often the one trainers forget or skip. If you want to make sure learners are confident and have a clear, correct idea of what to do take the time to do this step right.

4. Off you go!

As a trainer you can now be confident that the learners have the right idea as to what needs to be done. They can go and practice independently… but don’t get complacent – your job is not quite done! You now need to observe and check every learner – to make sure that they are doing it the right way, and to give tips and tricks to make the skill easier based on what they are doing. Encourage learners to verbalise the steps to help reinforce it in their brains.

Another hint:¬†For large, long, or complex skills, don’t forget to chunk it into smaller pieces for demonstration, before putting it all together.

Now let’s break this down to see how this supports different learners:

  1. I show you once: Visual
  2. I show you slow: Visual, auditory
  3. We do it together: Visual, auditory, sometimes kinaesthetic
  4. Off you go: Kinaesthetic, auditory

Does this way take more time… yes it can do. But consider it a saving of time you won’t need to spend providing a ton of feedback, corrections and further explanations.


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