Understanding the complexity of how people process your message.

The next few blogs will shed light on general communication. Specifically, we will be exploring creative ways to  enhance your speaking. Whether you are speaking to a small group or a very large audience there are ways to maximize the audience’s reception of your message. Your audience is more than ears. In fact, the majority of your audiences most effectively processes information in ways other than simply what they hear.  There are at least four ways people learn that significantly impact the power of your speaking or presenting. A brief summary follows.

What is going on

As you listen to a friend or sit in a meeting do you find yourself drawing or writing–doodling? Are you one of those people who click their pen or tap it on your notebook, or fiddle with the buttons on your shirt or beads on your necklace? Or maybe you are one of those people that are tapping your feet, drumming with your fingers, twirling your pencil or pen—you need to move. Then of course there are those who can just sit quietly without moving and listen for hours. What is up with those peeps?!

Communicators of all kinds need to ask “what’s up” with all of their listeners. People have different primary ways of listening and learning. Educators must pay attention to these learning styles. Communicators need to do the same. Here are the four styles of learning that impact how well people listen and process your message.

Some people do love to listen

These are the people communicators love to talk to! They are transfixed by the sound of our voices and their faces responsive. They learn best by hearing. They are auditory learners. Hurray for these folks!  As communicators we still need to be creative and give them an auditory smorgasbord. Changing tone and pace and volume often keeps everyone more interested. And when it is done with a clear plan and purpose ordinary communication can become extraordinary inspiration. A dignified adult speaker taking on the voice of a small belligerent child can pull back an audience on the edge of a nap! But research reveals this is not the majority of our listeners. Only 10-25% of your audience are auditory processers.

Some people need to see

These people need to see what you are saying. Visual learners are a majority in most audiences—40-50%. The very creative visual learners imagine what things you are talking about look like. These people in your audience may look like they are day dreaming but may be actually visualizing something you have said. Others are day dreaming. You have lost them. But to maximize keeping the attention of your visual learners or getting them back, you can offer them something to see as you speak. With the internet and technology today there are millions of creative ways to do this. Photos, video clips, small props, and creative body language can all be easily incorporated to engage your visual audience.

Others need to touch or manipulate

These folks take a little more work and forethought. They also represent 40-50% of most audiences. If you don’t give them something to touch they will find something. Better for the successful delivery of your message if you can provide something tactile that will keep them thinking about what you are saying.  For instance, give an audience small stones as they enter the room. When you are talking about the richness of diversity of people you can create a lasting tactile reinforcement of your message as each listener manipulates their own unique stone.  And as they see the stones of others near them they have a tactile and visual experience of how varied the stones are in their size, shape and color. Voila! You have a tactile example of your message. And, you have a tactile listener in the palm of your hand.

The movers

This is an extension of the tactile way of learning sometimes called tactile-kinesthetic, or tactile-kinetic. This way of processing information revolves around motion. These people need to move around and experience what you are saying. They do not want to be told how to do something. They want to try it! Alas, in many of our speaking forums this is not always possible. But it is possible to give small opportunities to move and experience the message. For example, instead of just describing how hard it is for most folks to touch their toes, let your audience stand up and try! Besides moving around a bit they will be energized by the sounds and sights of some who can and some who can’t touch their toes. If you do not provide ways for kinesthetic learners to move they will find a way—often by simply getting up and leaving the room.

An example using all four

I have constructed talks or sermons using these four learning styles as the parts of a presentation. One sermon was on forgiveness.  The sermon had four parts each corresponding to the four learning styles. The sermon had a song (auditory), a video clip (visual), an explanation when the audience wrote something on a post-it note (tactile), and an opportunity where they were invited to come forward and place the post-it note on a cross at the front of the sanctuary (kinesthetic). This is pretty straight forward and simple. But the possibilities are endless with creative planning.

Creating a smorgasbord

One style might dominate a particular presentation and another might use all four. These styles are applicable to all kinds of communication. Making a sales presentation, conducting a training session, or speaking to small or large audience, can be powerfully enhanced employing a variety of styles. The communicator  that wants to be extraordinary will respect all learning styles and create a smorgasbord of ways for participants to receive and act on the message. For the next four weeks we will look at each of these learning and listening styles in more depth, one at a time. We’ll start with the most often neglected–tactile or tactile-kinesthetic.

Any memorable examples?

Do you remember a talk or presentation that really stands out in your mind because the speaker used some tactile-kinesthetic tool to gain the audiences attention? Tell us about it in the comments below.

*Learning Styles research from:





Written by Candie


  1. Jimmy McGuire April 28, 2017 at 7:09 am Reply

    Watch the Youtube recording of Chet Atkins singing/playing “I still can’t say goodbye.” He has a simple prop for visuals: a hat; perfectly played and subdued music for hearing; a powerful, universal theme aimed at the heart and emotions. You can’t touch the presentation, but you see the faces of those to whom he was singing who were deeply moved.

    Good presentation for Father’s Day, if you’re so inclined.

    • Candie
      Candie April 28, 2017 at 9:13 am Reply

      Thank you for this great example, Jimmy!

  2. Jimmy McGuire April 28, 2017 at 7:18 am Reply

    Here’s the link for Chet Atkins song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVSHdwWzLo4

Leave a Comment