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3 Instructional Techniques to Win Over Learners

Posted by Jeff Welch on 3/14/16 4:00 AM
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As you start reading this blog you may wonder how a Greek philosopher relates to instructional techniques used in a training session. Keep reading and it will all come together. I promise.

While purging and packing for a recent cross-country move, I came across a book I hadn’t seen in years. It was one of my textbooks from an argumentation and debate class I took my senior year in college.

As a diversion from packing, I began to thumb through the yellowed pages of the book. One chapter in particular caught my attention. That chapter was devoted to the various persuasion techniques of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos which are known as the three pillars of persuasive speaking. The techniques date back to the days of ancient Greek society when Greek Philosopher, Aristotle, theorized that each technique must be achieved in order for an audience to find a speaker’s message believable.

As trainers we often encounter audiences who have limited to no buy-in as it relates to our subject-matter. I’ve found that by incorporating Aristotle’s techniques it often helps with winning over an audience of naysayers and non-believers.

Ethos is the Greek word for “character.” As a trainer, Ethos can be used to establish credibility and trustworthiness with your audience.

I strive to establish my Ethos or trust factor during my instructor introduction. I briefly take the time to mention my corporate training experience, any specialties or areas of expertise I may have, as well as my experience with the content I’m about to teach.

It’s important to note that when building a case for your character, you should avoid coming across as arrogant or pompous. Most audiences get turned off by a “know-it-all.”

Other instructional techniques that may help establish your Ethos are to use language appropriate for your audience’s educational level, use inclusive and unbiased terms, and practice correct grammar and syntax.

Establishment of Ethos makes you a credible trainer worth listening to.

Pathos is Greek for “suffering,” and often refers to one’s emotional appeal. Audiences usually exhibit a greater sense of buy-in when they feel an emotional connection to the message they’re hearing.

As a trainer, I establish Pathos and appeal to my audience’s emotional heart-strings during the benefits section of my introduction. I strive to provide answers to the age old question, “What’s in it for me?” By determining what serves as incentive or motivation for your audience, you better position yourself to capitalize on their emotional interests.

When I trained sales professionals, I knew they were typically motivated by money. I’d often begin my courses by telling a story of no longer being frustrated by not having enough money to take a dream vacation, contribute to a child’s college fund, or purchase holiday gifts.

Embedded somewhere within that story was the strong message that acquiring new sales skills could quite possibly help them make larger commission dollars. In turn, those larger commission dollars might just result in a relaxing stay at a Caribbean resort, Junior’s tuition being paid for, or the latest gadgets being purchased, wrapped, and sitting under a Christmas tree.

Establishment of Pathos allows you to connect with the “human side” of your audience and shows you are empathetic to their wants and desires.

Lastly, there’s the technique of Logos which is Greek for “word.” It suggests that a speaker’s words are his/her main tools to convince an audience using logic or reason.

Instructional techniques that can help establish Logos are to cite facts and statistics when delivering your training material, engage your trainees in logical arguments, and challenge their deductive and inductive reasoning. I’ve also found that citing additional authorities on a subject will solidify Logos.

Often our trainees don’t view us as the authority or expert (especially if they missed our Ethos message). To combat that mindset, I’ll cite other authorities in my field. When delivering train-the-trainer courses, I often quote Malcolm Knowles when teaching adult learning principles or Donald Kirkpatrick when discussing training evaluation.

By citing these individuals, it establishes the fact that I’m well-versed on the information of experts within my field and their research fully supports and confirms the message I’m delivering.

Simply put, Logos allows you to back up your training data and information.

As I reflected on the information in my old college textbook, I came to a major conclusion. Persuading a corporate audience to believe in your training message is essentially the same as persuading an academic audience to side with you during a collegiate debate. Thanks to Aristotle, these persuasion techniques are timeless and transferable!


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Jeff has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Speech Communications and Broadcasting from Western Kentucky University. Before pursuing his passion for training, Jeff worked as a television reporter, flight attendant, fitness instructor, and tour guide. Jeff started his career in training at the daily newspaper in Atlanta. Training seemed to be a natural fit for him since he’s always been a bit of a performer. When at home, you’ll catch Jeff watching a cooking show, recreating a dish he’s eaten abroad, or exploring one of the many great restaurants in the Chicago area. During the summer months, he hits the road to follow the talented drum corps of Drum Corp International—something he’s done since high school!

Topics: instructional techniques

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