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Are We On the Same Page?

Present your new ideas with the learning style of your audience in mind.

How do you learn best? In general, humans like to know more about their personality, whether the results are pulled from a quiz in the back of a magazine or a research-backed questionnaire. As such, many people are aware of their preferred learning styles. While it is clear that people have learning style preferences (“preferences” being the key word), research calls into question whether learning style-based teaching methods correlate to how well learners comprehend and apply material. In other words, further examination of the theory calls into doubt that a higher level of understanding is achieved when the learning style used by educators matches the style of students.

Does this mean that knowing the preferred learning style of those around you is useless? To the contrary. A major part of business communications involves catching the attention of others and a great way to do this is to cater to their learning preference. This knowledge helps you decide how to present new information to the listener, whether that be your colleague or boss, and ups the chances of a new idea receiving support.

There are more than seventy different learning style schemas. A commonly used arrangement includes three choices: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Here are some techniques to leverage the preferred learning styles of others when giving a presentation.

Auditory learners prefer to absorb information by hearing and talking.

  • Approach: A fancy PowerPoint or explainer video can be ignored with this group. This type of learner wants to engage with you, so leave time for discussion! Better yet, ask them questions to get them to relay their understanding of your idea. A good strategy when presenting verbally to this learner is to repeat key words or phrases since they latch onto catchy information.

Visual learners prefer to absorb information through images.

  • Approach: Those with a slant towards visual learning have a strong spatial understanding. They like to see how things work or fit together. Their attention is drawn to vivid colors, pictures and charts. They may get lost in a lecture, on a slide with too many words, or if they are in a meeting without a visual representation. A picture is literally worth a thousand words to this group.

Kinesthetic learners prefer to absorb information through engagement or physical activities.

  • Approach: This group needs to be involved in the action. That means giving them a chance to test out new ideas through a pilot or giving them tasks to complete that apply the discussed content. An alternative approach is to get them out of a traditional setting and moving while discussing important material. This type of learner is an ideal candidate for a walking meeting as they will be more engaged while their body is on the go.

While learning style theory has received critique in the classroom, opportunities exist to use learning styles at work. Knowing your audience helps you figure out the best tactic to present information and maintain the attention of key stakeholders. If you are short on time, a safe bet is to prepare a graphic representation, as around 65% of learners have a visual preference. But if you have more preparation time available, this is a great chance to ask your colleagues about their preferred learning styles directly. As an added benefit, this question shows you care about building a good relationship and allows you an opportunity to share your preference as well. And that sounds like a two-for-one that benefits both parties.


Moran, P. (August 14, 2015). Why You Shouldn't Waste Your Time With 'Learning Styles'. EdSurge.

St Louis, M. (August 1, 2017). How to Spot Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic-Learning Executives. Inc.

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