Don’t “read off” or recite previous content during your live sessions

Welcome to the “What NOT to Do When Building an Online Community!”  In this article, we talk about a very simple concept, but one that seems to come up way too often because it’s way too easy to fall into the trap of doing it:
Don’t “read off” or recite previous content during your live sessions.
Before we start, let’s be clear on one major point: there is no condemnation or embarrassment for anyone who has done this for their courses.  Yes, this material is based on real-life situations and existing courses, and there are real people who have either tried to do it, or have done it.  We won’t give names and we won’t cause them to be embarrassed.  With that in mind, please don’t share names of people or companies who have made this decision, and please don’t ask who we know have done this kind of work.
You may wonder why we talk about what NOT to do.  If you’ve played sports, or worked on a hobby, or have tried to master a skill, sometimes it’s more instructive to see how NOT to do something before you attempt to do it the right way.  It’s an effective approach to eliminate a poorly executed skill before you even start to try to do it.  And that’s why we talk about what NOT to do – because we don’t want you to even consider doing it in the first place!
Let’s talk about what many instructors and experts tend to do: reading slide decks, repeating what was previously taught, or simply reciting their work at length in a live session.
To clarify, a “live session” is a video-based session where it is broadcast without any editing.  For an online-based course, it’s usually a session where the instructor discusses a particular subject or a section of material.  Sometimes it’s a “question and answer” format, or it’s a “discussion” format where the instructor is interviewed by one or more people.  Usually these sessions are to expand understanding on a subject or section and to address questions which the participants may want answers.
The key purpose of these sessions is to assist and support the viewers and their understanding of the material.  These sessions can be very effective as it allows the participants to interact with the instructor, either with previously submitted questions or to entertain questions during the session.  It shouldn’t be a lecture or an extended presentation which takes up the entire session.
Let’s talk about what many instructors and experts tend to do in a live session: reading slide decks, repeating at length what was previously taught, or simply reciting their work at length in a live session.
Do you remember when you were in high school or college and you had a teacher read “straight from the book” what you were assigned to read before class?  How much did you retain or gain from the teacher’s reading?  Probably not much?  Reading 100% of the content from a slide deck in any format isn’t an effective approach in any format, but it’s worse when your participants have already seen or read your presentation.  You don’t need to repeat the whole performance in a live session.
There’s nothing wrong with a quick review over key points or areas which participants may have not been clear on what you taught, but don’t dive into the entire slide deck.  Instead, create a condensed slide deck and provide a concise review – and then provide additional insights on the established material.
Presenting material which has already been given and studied without adding anything new, insightful or applicable is going to cause you to lose your audience.  How many times have you attended a presentation with a large audience and the speaker chose content which was already received and understood by the crowd?  Have you seen people start looking at their phones?  Or work on their computers?  Or, worst of all, walk out of the room?  It’s the same
Sometimes we as instructors are still working on our understanding of content which we want to present.  The last place we want to share that content is in a course.  Howard Hendricks, a professor of theology, is famous for this quote: “A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pews.”  If it’s not clear what Dr. Hendricks was trying to share, here’s the simple explanation: if you think what you want to say to your audience is a little vague, it’s most likely to be confusing to them.
Make your content fresh.  Make it clear.  Make it transformational.
Want some help making your content?  We’re here for you.  Email us at and we’ll provide you access to our best resources.  Let us help you!

You May Also Like . . .