People learn in different ways. The best way to reach everyone is to communicate with them in the way that is most effective for them. The VARK model created by Neil Fleming identifies four different learning types:
- Auditory Learners: Prefer to hear information rather than seeing it. You reach them best by through lectures, briefings or speeches and by allowing them to repeat information back to you.
- Visual Learners: Prefer to see information and visualize the relationships between and among ideas. Visual learners like demonstrations, charts and graphs, illustrations, and sometimes photographs or videos.
- Reading/Writing Learners: Interact best with text through reading and writing. Interactive methods like quizzes and handouts that they can annotate help them to learn.
- Kinesthetic Learners: Hands-on and experiential, they learn by doing, touching and manipulating things. Give them the opportunity to move, touch, and work with information.
Why am I mentioning this? Because the candidates in our endless presidential campaigns use only one style of learning, the Auditory style – and don’t tolerate any of the others.
Don’t Talk At My Learning Type
Now, I’m a visual learner myself so I’m always puzzled when I encounter situations in which people assume that just talking at you will get the job done. During my career this was most obvious when we were giving industry analyst briefings. The usual set-up was to put an analyst in a conference room with a VP of Marketing, a Product Manager and a Communications Person. Sometimes we would have an analyst call during which the VP and Product Manager talked on the phone for the better part of an hour before fielding some questions. The Communications Person rarely said much but handled the action items that came out of the call.
I was always the Communications Person. Listening to a Product Manager talk for an hour, going on and on about the features and benefits of his product made me crazy. Even the ubiquitous Power Point presentations that inevitably accompanied the briefings would all blend together when they consisted of word slides (Amazing Features/Astonishing Benefits/Astounding Differentiation) without any graphics more interesting or engaging than network diagrams. Light-heartedness and (gasp) humor were strictly verboten. The product was to be Taken Very Seriously by everyone involved.
After 10 minutes of technical awesomeness described verbally in mind-boggling detail (5 minutes after the third call or meeting) I would be mentally organizing my next project, writing lead generation copy and sometimes planning the dinner menu in my head. I would have to pull myself back to the meeting, translating technical yada-yada-yada into actual words with some real meaning.
The Absurdity of Political Talk
That’s why I observe political campaigns with astonishment. Campaign speech is everywhere; all the candidates do is talk, talk, talk. They talk to large rallies and small audiences, to interviewers and to news reporters, to individuals and to groups. They wax eloquent on with explanations, attacks, defenses, policy statements, assertions, and descriptions. They argue, remonstrate, bloviate, pontificate, obstruct and incite. They use past actions and future predictions to reinforce or drive home a point.
But never once do they show us what they mean. Never once do they put what they are saying into a format that’s easily understandable to Visual Learners.
Show Me the Point
Mr./ Ms. Candidate, you say the economy is better or worse under this administration vs that administration? Great, show me how, show me when, show me where. Give me the charts and graphs that demonstrate your supposed facts. Use illustrations that prove your point.
Show me where the line goes up or down. Show me the pie chart. Give me a map, preferably with multi-colored states. Demonstrate your point in a way that appeals to and reaches more than just Auditory Learners. And remember that Reading/Writing Learners have to see the information before they can absorb any of it..
This sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It seems so logical. Then why doesn’t it happen? I’ll explain that in tomorrow’s post.