Choosing a Teaching Method

Once you as a speaker figure out what you want to say, an additional step involves deciding how you want to say it—specifically, which instructional method you will use to present your material. (Some refer to this as “unpacking the subject.”) It is beneficial for aspiring speakers to listen to speeches, presentations, and talks of all kinds for examples on the approaches being used by other presenters. There are different ways of teaching a subject, but for our purposes here only two will be discussed: the “deductive” method and the “inductive” method. Both are highly effective but very different in the manner in which messages are conveyed.Deductive Method. The “deductive” method is a standard teaching model that looks like this: Principle Stated . Examples Given . Proof in Practice. 

A deductive talk on worry could be structured this way:

Title: The Truth About Worry

Principle Stated: Worry can kill you!

Examples Given: Statistics and supportive material showing the health risks associated with worry.

Proof in Practice: Worry can kill you! Stories of people suffering or dying from stress-related illnesses; suggestions designed to help listeners overcome worry.

This is a simple example of using the deductive approach to teach on the subject of “worry.” The biggest problem with this method is that it tends to eliminate the element of surprise and most of the positive tension in the talk. When the principle is stated up front, listeners often think they already know what is going to be said. Unfortunately, this means the presenter has to work even harder to keep their interest and attention. Nonetheless, the deductive method is a powerful way to state your case and use the rest of your talk proving it.

Inductive Method. The “inductive” method is a quite different teaching approach. You might say it is somewhat of a reverse of the deductive method. The inductive method looks like this: Examples Given . Proof in Practice . Principle Stated.

An inductive talk on worry might be structured this way:

Title: What Most People Don’t Know About Worry

Examples Given: Stories of people dying or suffering from stress related illnesses.

Proof in Practice: Statistics cited about health risks associated with worry.

Principle Stated: The most important thing you need to know about worry is “Worry can kill you!”

The inductive approach allows the presenter to build to a climax, with the principal supposition being held in tension until the latter part of the message. This method captivates listeners by using examples and illustrations that hold their attention until the key principle is stated at or near the end of the talk.

Unlike the deductive method, the inductive method (if done well) holds the listener’s attention because the key point is not stated up front. This can be a very powerful and effective method when used properly.

Generally, my preference is the inductive method of teaching because people like surprise endings. However, many great teachers prefer the deductive approach. In the end, gifted teachers do not let a method determine their approach. They analyze their audience and subject and evaluate the best way to achieve their desired outcome.