They’re with me, I just know it, at least I think they’re with me, okay maybe not. Oh no! They’re gone. Well, thank goodness that’s over!
I addressed this issue 30 minutes ago. How did they forget so soon? They have minds like colanders — easy in and easy out. Frustrating!
He seemed surprised when I called on him. It’s his area of expertise. He kind of recovered, but imagine what would have happened if he hadn’t known the topic. Frankly, it wasn’t a great moment for either of us.
Too often, trainers, facilitators, and speakers think people are with them and retaining information, but in truth, they’ve misheard, drawn incorrect conclusions, taken mental vacations to the Bahamas, or worse.
Fortunately, fixing those problems isn’t as tough as it may initially seem. When used consistently, anchors, signposts, echoes, and loops can help improve the clarity and stickiness of a message. These four devices help people find their way, hear instructions or key messages more than once, and recall earlier messages.
Anchors ground people and tell them where they are in a presentation. Anchors include such tools as agendas, navigation slides, page number references, and instructions to focus attention on something specific, for example, a line on a spreadsheet.
“We have five topics to discuss today. We will begin with an update from marketing. John, the stage is yours.”
“We’re looking at the table on the top of page 23. Let me draw your eyes to the second line.”
“We’re moving to part three on our agenda, the annual budget. We’re on slide 34.”
When a training class, meeting, or presentation goes virtual, anchors become more important. With a virtual audience, the question usually isn’t will people get distracted, it’s when. Solid use of anchors can help those who have checked out check back in with greater ease.
“Mark, what do you think about that?” Crickets. “Mark, are you with us? Mark?
Poor Mark. If he’d known a question was coming his way, chances are he’d be alert and ready to answer. The facilitator could have used a signpost and solved this problem before it happened. Signposts are clues about what’s coming.
“Mark, I’m going to talk to the numbers on this next slide, and then I’d like you to weigh in.” When people know they’re next on deck, they’re better focused and more likely to say something of value.
Answer stacking is another way to signpost. For example, “I see three hands. Let’s hear from Keisha, Charles, and then Eduardo. With an established order in place, the likelihood that people will talk over each other declines significantly.
In addition to using signposts to warn people and stack answers, you should signpost when people need to do something now to be successful later. “I’m going to call out a few places where you’ll want to take some notes as I talk through this next slide. You’ll need them when we break into small group discussions.” Anyone who has ever facilitated a room full of confused people attempting group work knows how much fun that isn’t. Careful signposting can reduce the problem or even eliminate it.
Echoes are a second chance to hear a message.
You can echo using the same channel or a different one. You can repeat important sentences verbally. You might also have a slide or two that echoes what you’ve said. For example, an instruction slide you show after you’ve explained an activity can go a long way toward ensuring people understand a task.
If you’re working virtually, you can use the chat to echo. When you ask a question, do so verbally, and then type it in the chat. Typing the question gives you something to do while you are waiting for responses. The typed question also gives people another chance to process what you’ve asked.
Guided notes are another way to create echoes. “You might want to make a note of this next point…” Even if they’re not regular note takers, most people will take notes if you make room for note taking and suggest what they should write.
While echoes reinforce what’s communicated in the short term, loops call back to earlier points. Loops remind people about what they’ve heard, seen, or learned. A few loops through the same content can dramatically reinforce its stickiness.
“As Bob pointed out earlier, we don’t have an aggressive risk appetite for this project.”
“Let’s revisit the information Cara shared this morning and confirm we’re still on the same page.”
“We’ve reviewed the turnover numbers, we’ve identified some root causes, now it’s time to map out a plan and a timeline for addressing the problem.”
When used in conjunction with anchors, loops help keep people on the same page.
Whether you’re conducting a training session, speaking at a conference, running a workshop, or conducting a meeting, anchors, signposts, echoes, and loops will go a long way toward improving the mechanics and stickiness of the experience. At first, use these devices deliberately. Over time, they will become second nature.
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.