How Reality TV can inform teaching best practices
There is no in-between when it comes to Reality TV: either you love it or you hate it; and what little television I watch consists almost entirely of the few cheesy reality shows that come with basic cable. Rationally, I understand that the scripting, editing and staging in these shows creates what is mostly an illusion of spontaneity and real life, but there is something genuine in peoples’ approach and responses that sustains my interest. Whether you are fan or foe of the genre, Reality TV can teach at least five compelling lessons that relate to presentations and facilitation:
1. Performance anxiety is a given – it’s how you handle it that matters. We’ve all seen people psyche themselves out, even before they’ve set foot on the stage. Negative self-talk, dwelling on the discomfort of anxiety, or just wanting to “get it over with” are major pitfalls in delivering an effective and engaging presentation. The people who succeed seem to be the ones who adopt a matter-of-fact attitude towards their anxiety without wallowing in it. They are also the ones who, if they choke, just keep going with courage and determination. The audience is rooting for you – they want you to succeed!
2. You can’t fake authenticity. Some people are immediately likeable, and in large part that’s because we feel like we are seeing the real person. Audiences connect to presenters who are 100% present and 100% themselves. Carl Rogers talks about genuineness in therapy and in education, as do Roy and Jeannette Henderson in their book, There’s No Such Thing as Public Speaking. Recasting presentation as conversation versus performance links us directly to the audience.
3. Evoking emotion is the most powerful way to engage an audience. New learning is “stickier” when it’s accompanied by some emotion – think about your earliest childhood memories: they are likely the situations in which you experienced strong feelings (whether great happiness, intense fear, excitement, etc.). Telling a story as an illustrative example is a good way to evoke emotion. So is asking the audience to share their own stories and examples.
4. Willingness to risk engenders respect and models deep learning. People respect others who are courageous enough to step outside the comfort zone – and that place is exactly where we want learners to go. Deep learning happens when we enlarge our awareness of what we don’t know and risk trying out new approaches and skills. Facilitators who model this create safe yet dynamic learning contexts and communities.
5. Basic human kindness is foundational. The people who demonstrate kindness, respect, compassion and humility are the ones we want to have on our team and as mentors. Learning happens over time, so ideally we want to foster an ongoing relationship with learners premised on mutual regard and trust. And even if the good guy/girl on the show doesn’t always win the prize, they tend to come off rather better than the folks who compromise their ethics and integrity in the process.
I’m pretty sure there’s more, but Hell’s Kitchen is queued up on the PVR.