What’s the difference between telling, teaching, and training? And which should you be doing?
They really ARE different — although related — and which one you should do depends on your goals, your audience, and your situation. Often, we think it’s obvious:
- If I’m doing a sales presentation or project update, I should be telling
- If I’m a teacher, I should be teaching
- If I’m a trainer, I should be training
This is true, but if you don’t know the difference, you may be teaching when you want to be training. Or maybe you’re teaching when you should be just telling. So let’s dive in and get some clarity!
What is telling–and when should I do it?
As I mentioned above, examples of presentations that involve telling are sales presentations and project updates. There might be some element of teaching in them — for example, you might want to teach a prospective customer about the need for a social media automation system before you go on to tell them why they should buy yours. This is sometimes called information or education marketing.
But if you teach TOO much, you lose sales. Sometimes, people get enough information to figure out a way to do the job on their own. Other times, you overwhelm them. For these and other reasons, selling is mostly telling.
The same is true of a project update to your team or boss. There’s not much reason to teach — you can just tell the audience your results.
You can tell people that flying a kite is fun, but they really need more than that.
What is teaching–and when should I do it?
Obviously, if you’re a teacher in a classroom, you should be teaching. You teach so your students understand. The difference is that you want to be sure your students learn. I think there are 2 differences between telling and teaching:
- The information is much more detailed
- You test the students to make sure they learned the material
This verification of learning is crucial.
For example, you can teach students about the physics of flying a kite, but you can’t be sure if they know it until you test them.
What is training–and when should I do it?
Of course, if you’re a trainer, whether in-house, coming into an organization from outside, or recruiting individuals to take your course, you want to train. The difference is that you want your students to implement what they have learned.
It’s not always the case that the same person does all facets of training. For example, one person might teach the principles and another person might coach the student on the job. Nevertheless, training doesn’t happen unless the person can practice and implement the training.
You do this with activities such as:
- Role plays
- Inbox exercises
- Practice sessions
- Ongoing feedback and coaching, if possible
- Simulation exercises
So, tell your friends how much fun it is to buy a kite and maybe where to get a good one.
Teach them some of the important principles, such as how to create a good tail.
…but they won’t really be able to fly a kite until you take them out on a field with a kite and practice with them.
If you would like to work with me on your next presentation to make sure it has the impact you want, you can find more information about my 1-on-1 presentation consulting and coaching here.
What’s your view about telling vs teaching vs training? Leave a comment and please share this post with your colleagues. It should spark a valuable conversation!