Information Overload

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” — Herbert Simon

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Herbert Simon

I can relate to this quote personally. When I have 100 things to do, I often try to work on everything just a little and end up getting nowhere. Training content is similar. If too much material is presented, the trainees will spread their attention and focus out to all of it resulting in little attention actually being given to what’s important.

Many people have heard that Trainer’s should minimize the amount of text on a slide, not only because it is hard to read but also because it is too much information to absorb at once. Sticking to three bullet points per slide is a good goal but if you have 3 bullet points on each slide, and each slide has 3 completely different bullet points, and you have 60 slides – that still equals too much information.

Try reducing the scope of the content. Is all of that information really necessary? What can you eliminate?  If you were told you only had half of the allotted time, what would you remove? If every single one of those bullets was essential, can you break the class into two parts? If it will be difficult to get the trainees for two separate sessions and you will only get to see them once, what can you pull out and distribute as pre-work and post-work?  Sending pre-class prep work can help spread the content out over time so trainees can focus on less content during the actual class.

If you are planning a typical safety training class, you may be thinking, there is no way the people coming to my class would ever do any type of pre-work. I get it. Many of the people we deliver safety training to are not in a position or environment to do pre-class work unless it’s on their own time and that is not going to happen. How do you normally communicate with those employees? Would they open and read an email? Try sending just a labeled image or infographic out with instructions to review it before the class. You can even state that there will be a short quiz at the beginning of class on the information. (Don’t just say this – do it. The benefits of a pre-quiz are many. For more information read my post on re-evaluation). Even this little bit of pre-work will help reduce some of the content you feel you must present. during a single session.

Imagine each point you are presenting is a stick. If you give your trainees ten sticks to carry, they may drop one or two but will be able to handle most. Now imagine you gave your trainees 50 sticks to carry. How many of those sticks would they drop and leave behind? Thank of training content the same way. The more you give them, the more they will drop.  Take an objective look at what you are really asking trainees to pay attention to and reduce that “pile of sticks” as much as you can.

Next up…don’t overload the images. More on that tomorrow.

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