Four Ways Sushi Increases Learner Engagement

  • SumoMe



I recently saw the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi .  If you haven’t seen it, the film is about a sushi chef in Japan.  This guy’s been making sushi for 70 years, and he’s got a restaurant that get’s booked months in advance.  It’s a cool story but the whole thing is in japanese.  Now, my japanese is a bit rusty but the good news is the whole movie has subtitles. About half way through the film I had a little training and development light come on for me.

It took a while for me to clue into what was happening, but I finally realized that I hadn’t taken my eyes off of the screen for a second.  I was trying to fold laundry, couldn’t do it.  I had to step out of the room for a second and I had to pause the film.  You want to talk about engagement! Because of the subtitles (no english voice over) I literally could not take my eyes off the screen for fear of missing part of the story.

 Everyday we host live and webinar style training sessions and you and I both know that people’s attention tends to wander.  On a good day, even when we’ve all taken our med’s, it’s had to pay attention.  So how did this sushi shogun do it?  Slap some subtitles on it, and boom! you’re done!  Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy?

 They gave me two incomplete stories.  I could watch the screen, ignore the subtitles and take a guess at what was going on, but if it was a talking-head interview section, I was screwed.  And just listening wasn’t an option at all.  I had to watch and read to see what was happening.

 Some people don’t like subtitles.  I get it. If you’re reading you miss the action. There weren’t a ton of fight scenes, explosions, or slight of hand so I was able to keep up just fine. If it were an action movie, and it had english voice over, I would be able to absorb the story through my ears and be tempted to leave the room, bringing us back to a lower level of engagement.

 So, what, we should do all trainings in japanese and only provide english subtitles? No, don’t be ridiculous. And don’t put words in my mouth, it’s rude.  I’m saying that we have to have interesting content, and provide different portions of the story through each sensory avenue (taste excluded).  If everything that comes out of our mouth is on the slide, they can tune us out and rightly, so. Frankly, if I attended a session where I was read to, which I have (and I’ve hosted.  I know, I know…) I would be less than thrilled.

 How?  Let’s get specific.

 1.  Know your content.  Have examples to provide and give back stories.  We should be able to expand on each idea and land it back to the learners everyday life. I’m always trying to step my game on this and the more homework we do the easier this gets.  Read blogs and books, get comfortable with the technology, talk to experts and people that use it every day.

 2. Take every non-essential word off of the slide.  (I had to try really hard to use expletives there.) Get’s me all fired up! Why do people care what we say if they can read it for themselves?  If we aren’t adding anything of value, we have no business asking them to spend the time to listen to us drone on. So unless we get paid by the word, let’s boil each sentence down to bare bones.  We should be able to provide the context and colour commentary.  But heads up! If there is nothing going on on the screen and you keep on talking, they no longer need to look at the screen. Back to lower engagement. Information that isn’t repeated.  That’s a winner, right there.

 3. Use relevant visuals.  If it’s a reasonable alternative, use graphs, workflows, diagrams and the like.  This goes back to the Dual Code theory, a visual and audio/text representative of the same concept.  I was getting different information from the subtitles than I was on the screen.  For my money, if you can demonstrate something live, make it happen.  If you were the one listening/viewing how would you stay engaged? As a trainer, only highlight and cover one piece at a time, then move on.  “Let’s start with this section right here…” Oh , wait, where is he? Oh, there.  Ok.

4. Make it interesting. Sometimes a sow’s ears is a flappy piece of pig skin, but, I don’t know, toss in an earing, maybe a funny hat, OR! Tie it back to the learners actual life.  How can it help them, how can they directly benefit from this session. What’s in it for them.

The puchline here is everything you present and provide should be essential and to use different channels.  Transmedia storytelling emobides this really well.  You get a different part of the story from the comic book, web series, app, and everything else.  Between that and taking out anything non-essential or repeated, you should be in good shape.  Good luck!


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