Stop Focusing On What You Want To Teach In Your Webinar

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Why You MUST Stop Focusing On “What You Want To Teach” In Your Webinar

by guest author Breanne Dyck

If you do webinars — or plan to do webinars — for your business, you want to read this post by adult learning consultant Breanne Dyck.

I pride myself on delivering content-rich, value-packed webinars. (Nothing makes me angrier than dedicating 60 minutes to attend a webinar and being pitched to for over half that.) But in the process, I’ve definitely committed the teaching sin Breanne discusses below in my own webinars and I loved her explanation of how to turn it around.

So without further ado, take it away, Breanne!

Why You MUST Stop Focusing On "What You Want To Teach" In Your Webinar

When you start thinking about your next webinar, what’s the first question you ask?

Is it, “What should I teach?”

If so, I’ve got bad news for you: that’s the wrong question. In fact, trying to figure out what you want to teach — whether you’re creating a webinar, a course, a blog post or a social media campaign — is the fastest way to sabotage your results.

In some ways, this makes sense; marketing experts repeatedly tell us to sell benefits, not features. The reason, of course, is that no one actually cares what you want them to know. They only care about what you can help them do differently.

But there’s more to it than that.

What Does It Take To Inspire Action?

By way of example, I want you to think back to the history classes you took in school.

Perhaps you, like I, were instructed to memorize names and dates, so that we could regurgitate facts about various historical events on the test. And whenever someone would ask why we had to “learn that stuff”, we’d inevitably be given some variation of the following as a response:

“Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”

I don’t know about you, but that answer never satisfied me. There is a big difference between being able to recite names and dates, and really understanding the history so that past mistakes aren’t repeated. Just having more information doesn’t enable us to act.

In educational psychology circles, this is known as the difference between surface learning and deep learning.

Surface learning is what happens when we technically experience an increase in knowledge, but our understanding of the world didn’t change. We have knowledge, but we can’t do anything with it.

Deep learning, on the other hand, translates that new knowledge into a measurable change in how we saw, experience, understand and conceptualize the world. In other words, it’s deep learning that enables us to take action.

This is the key to getting an audience to take action on what they learn, then: you can’t just give interesting information — you need to help them go deep.

How to Encourage Deep Learning

So deep learning is the ultimate goal, what does that mean for us? How can we make sure that our audience is getting the “right stuff” out of what we’re sharing?

That’s where your mindset comes into play.

See, in 1994, a study was published which focused on the relationship between an instructor’s assumptions and mindset about their role, and whether their students would experience deep learning or not.

Here’s what they found:

When instructors saw their job as being focused on “transmitting knowledge”, they naturally created an environment that kept students focused on the surface learning.

When they instead saw their job as “facilitating learning”, they naturally shifted their methods to ones that would help students go deep. Without even making a conscious effort to do so.

The researchers even went so far as to say that when see what you’re doing as transferring you know to others’ heads, you end up actively discouraging any sort of meaningful learning. The instructors didn’t intend to have a harmful impact on their students when they planned their lessons from the perspective of “these are the things I want to teach, these are the topics I want to make sure they learn, and this is the knowledge I want to impart.”

But that subconscious mindset was enough to sabotage their students’ success, nonetheless.

To Be Successful, You Must Shift Your Mindset

If you are trying to build your business by teaching what you know, you need to make sure you are really clear on what that actually means.

We’re surrounded by a culture that tells us that the job of the teacher is to be the expert; to share what they know with their students. This is how I was taught, and probably how you were taught, too. Even in the online world, this hasn’t changed much. The job of a teacher is to teach us what they know.

But it doesn’t work.

What research tells us is that if we really want to encourage the kind of deep learning that results in action, we need to stop focusing on what we know, and instead pour all our attention into helping people achieve their goals. The key is to look at how you can facilitate learning, not transmit knowledge.

So the next time you start to plan your next webinar, don’t ask yourself, “What do I want to teach?”

Instead, ask yourself, “What do they want to be able to do, and how can I help them get there?”

That subtle shift will make all the difference.

Breanne Dyck

Breanne Dyck is a strategist, coach and consultant who helps microbusinesses grow their revenues and their impact by applying the principles of adult learning. Figure out what your audience wants from you in her free, 4-step workbook: the Perfect Participant Quick-Start Guide.


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2 Responses to Why You MUST Stop Focusing On “What You Want To Teach” In Your Webinar

  1. Peggy Freeh June 4, 2015 at 15:19 #

    Thanks, Breanne!

    This is so helpful. I’ve been trying to put together a webinar, but I just keep thinking of different ideas to share. I can see that changing my focus on getting people to take action would help me focus AND be much more beneficial for the people who come.

  2. Mandi June 7, 2015 at 22:37 #

    Fabulous article! I really got a lot from this…. it makes so much sense.
    Thank you for sharing Breanne with us Jackie :)

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