Walt Disney was the person who proclaimed, “Adults are just grown up kids, anyway.” Childhood learning patterns typically establish the learning preference of the adult learner. A general understanding of adult learning styles will give the professional speaker an advantage when designing presentations. This is a very useful tool, especially if you are well acquainted with your audience. The most common learning styles (or preferences) are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Let’s explore these styles.

Many people prefer to see what they are learning. The brains of visual learners begin to process the information they see in images prior to comprehending other information. To help drive a point home with adult learners, the speaker can have them go through a “create a mental image” activity. This is very simply, but very impactful to ensure that learning is occurring with all participants. What do you prefer when following directions? A map, step-by-step photos, or a video tutorial are all methods of visual learning.

Auditory learners are listeners. These are the people who are hanging on your every word. They prefer listening to instructions, instead of reading or watching a demonstration. Many of these types of adult learners will talk to themselves while doing a given task. These learners will often ask for something to be repeated, so they can fully understand the message.

Those participants in your session that are taking copious notes, or doodling in their notebook are really paying attention. They are kinesthetic learners. These are the adult learners who excel at “learn by doing”. They prefer to experience, reflect, and discuss. This method stays with them much longer than lectures or videos. Hands-on activities are a must for kinesthetic learners.

By incorporating a variety of techniques that meet different learning styles, the speaker will be more effective. In addition, the “hands-on” activity for the kinesthetic learning will be refreshing for the auditory learning energizing their attention span. The visual learner will enjoy watching the kinesthetic learner in a “hands-on” activity. The speaker will be much more effective when engaging the audience by diversifying their presentation style to meet the learning needs of the audience.