If You Entertain^* They Will Learn

If You Entertain^* They Will Learn
February 21, 2009

As you know we are now reviewing the 100+ presentations submitted for consideration for a SHARKIE Award. We’ll be announcing the Winners -Live online on March 4th. Watching dozens of presentations in a short period of time helped me solidify an idea I have been pondering recently; the combination of Entertainment and Learning. In other words, If you Entertain, They will Learn.

Now this is not a brand new concept. Just ask the folks at Sesame Street and Fisher Price or more recently at Leap Frog and Baby Einstein. For these folks entertainment and education are inextricably linked and are serious business. But of course this is kids stuff - right? This does not apply to the serious job of learning in the corporate world - right?

Wrong - There is a growing industry in the field of Edutainment.

Every presentation we reviewed was a serious business presentation. Each was trying to communicate an important piece of business related content and every presentation evoked an emotional response. I have spoken of the emotional response before when talking about audio delivery in your presentations. Audio is certainly a key component but there is also an element of overall approach that elicits the emotion. Opening slides that feel like they go on for days… don’t entice me to keep watching. Poorly structured presentations (no agenda or map or logical flow) cause me to feel confused and lost; whereas, presentations that are well organized are appreciated because I can navigate through the pieces that mean the most to me and I know where the content is going. Cluttered slides, too many animations or reading the text that is on the slide makes me agitated and I stop paying attention; whereas clear, concise slides encourage anticipation of the next bit of learning. Enthusiastic speakers elicit enthusiasm because we know that enthusiasm is contagious. And presentations that use themes or metaphors to guide them are appreciated for consistency and the fun they bring to the communication.

Case in point: One contestant submitted a presentation that was designed to educate a sales group. They used the metaphor of a treasure map. This is a great metaphor for sales people is it not? The metaphor returned multiple times and included an image of the map and the progress the viewer made as they moved through the learning. The authors had one “Pirate” male voice, complete with “AARRGGHH” and then a female voice that delivered the straight content in between. As I watched the presentation I looked forward to the Pirate and where I was on the treasure map. In the end I was entertained and I learned. If I was a sales person in that organization, I would know exactly what I needed to do in order to get my “treasure”.

Could they have done it straight? -Yes. Would I have listened? - Maybe. Would it have been as memorable? - No. Is it a good thing that it is memorable? - Yes. Will the sales organization look forward to the next presentation? You bet they will. Is that a good thing? Absolutely!

Take a risk. Make your learning energetic and fun. Your audience will appreciate it and look forward to more learning from you. Thank you for reading and have a Sharktastic Day!