Rhubarb caterpillarMy sister and I have something in common with this caterpillar. No, as beautiful as we both are, we’re not destined for life as a butterfly. Rather, we love rhubarb. Unlike my mother. Her attitude towards rhubarb is rather like a vampire to garlic (perhaps likening my mother to a vampire is not the most sensitive analogy, but it did get your attention).

One of the challenges of public speaking is audience variety. If you have more than one person in your audience, then you must think about varying your style of communication. While we cannot please everyone all the time, we do well to serve our listeners the best we can. Part of that responsibility is to adjust our presentation to take into account preferred learning styles. Let’s examine three:

  1. Auditory. Some love nothing more than to sit and listen for half an hour. These are the people who might close their eyes to cut out extraneous inputs that would distract them from listening. No, they’re not asleep, they’re concentrating. This is my father’s preferred style. Auditory learners tend to think that kinetics are impatient and superficial.
  2. Kinetics. They want to get up, walk around, participate in an activity or draw a picture. They need handouts, a ‘prop’ and shorter lessons (or lessons broken into chunks with movement between sections). I gave everyone a nail in a sermon once. It helps the kinetics to link what is being said with concrete ideas. Kinetics may see auditory learners as dull and cerebral, not interested in real life.
  3. Visual. Others need pictures. Pictures on handouts, PowerPoint and the like make quite a difference to these people. If you have a quote, put it on screen as well as reading it out. If you cannot do this, paint a picture with your movement, or ask them to close their eyes as you create an imaginary picture. Visual learners have a challenge with the kinetics, seeing their movement as intrusive while the visual learner is trying to interpret a visual input.

In reality we are a blend of these and more, but most people I know have a preference for one or other style. I’m off now to look through my sermon for tomorrow and see what I can do to provide for all the learning styles. Just so long as there are no rhubarb-lovers there. I want all that luscious dessert for myself! Sister’s not getting any.