Audio, visual, tactile, experiential, kinesthetic…these are learning styles, right? Not quite. It’s true that adults tend to prefer one of those for receiving information. However; adults learn new skills such sales or service skills only one way: by doing.

That said; because adults don’t do things just because you ask them to, when you want to teach people skills you need to teach them two things: How to perform the skills, and the whys and wherefores behind it all.

The how-to

When it comes to teaching the how-to of skills, you’ve got to show them how it’s done and then give them lots of practice with coaching.

That practice also has to be realistic. So if you want to teach people how to have excellent customer service or sales conversations with other humans you’ve got to provide plenty of human-to-human practice. Reading, watching videos, or participating in webinars won’t fully do the job.

In-person workshops are usually the most time and cost-effective way to teach people skills. Workshops give trainers a chunk of time to work with students, and the group dynamics help speed up the learning process. But if you can’t get a workshop going, there are other ways to teach skills. Remember the goal is to make it as realistic as possible, for example:

  • Teach call center reps or telemarketers via phone conference or webinar with call-in.
  • One or two sales or service reps can be trained via less formal coaching sessions.

The why-for

Those “learning styles” do apply when it comes to teaching people the concepts behind those skills. To teach a bunch of adults, you should use tools that appeal to all learning styles. This isn’t hard to do if you can teach in a live, in-person workshop setting.

For example: If you want people to use a certain approach or format to a sales call, that is probably described in a model. In a workshop setting you can easily:

  • Show them the model (visual).
  • Talk through and explain reasoning behind the model (audio).
  • Encourage or give them space to take notes (kinesthetic and tactile).
  • Require interaction (audio and experiential).
  • And encourage students to bring up concerns or challenges (experiential).

The above would also apply to teaching product information. However, keep this in mind: You can’t fully teach people to apply that product knowledge, as in a sales call, using the above tools. You’d need live human-to-human practice for that.

Teach adults how they learn

You can increase the efficacy of all teaching methods by teaching the students how adults learn. It only takes a few minutes to cover the above in a workshop; you need only a few paragraphs or bullet points to cover it in self-study.

Teaching students how they learn will also help you as a trainer: It bolsters the need for role-play and puts the power to learn where it belongs; primarily on the student, secondarily on the trainer. Most importantly, teaching students how they learn sets the stage for what happens after the workshop — completing the learning curve.