Teaching to Fish

By | June 21, 2009

I was helping two co-workers the other day.  One wanted to present information in an email and the other in PowerPoint to be used with customers.  (Pretty common tasks, you think?)

The tricky part for me was to avoid just “fixing it”.  I wanted to teach them to fish, not just give them a meal.

I explained how in PowerPoint, you shouldn’t repeat the words you are saying.  It actually makes it harder to understand when people hear and see at the same time.  For instance, have some read this paragraph aloud and then you try to read it at the same time.  Either you will ignore the person talking or stop reading and start listening.  You can’t easily do both.

In the email I explained about how people skim and don’t read.  They are distracted by other things and don’t want to read your “happy talk”.  I also demonstrated “text blocking” techniques which allow you to highlight certain sections making them easier to read.

These techniques are not terribly complicated and anyone can use them.  Books like Don’t Make Me Think and Presentation Zen do a wonderful job of explaining the techniqies.

I truly believe that anyone can do these things.  They just need to be taught and to practice.  Hmm, I wonder if this paragraph could be applied to any skill.  When was the last time you taught someone a skill?  When was the last time you were taught?  What goes around, comes around.

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