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The power of the spoken word: including podcasts in training

Back in 1938, radio was the main means of finding out what was going on in the world, listen to music or even to the back-then really popular radiophonic theatre. When on October 30th of that year (which incidentally happened to be Halloween Sunday) a very enthralling version of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” was performed by the legendary Orson Welles some listeners found it so realistic that they literally panicked believing that the world would be ending.

That’s mainly because the first part of show was done in the form of short news bulletins and at that time nobody had ever heard of fake news.

Later research has shown that the following outrage far exceeded the initial panic but the whole deal remained in history as a very important event and it is a great example of how powerful and engaging the spoken word can be.

including podcasts in training

Why L&D professionals should consider the podcast as a training tool

Without further ado, here are four reasons why you should consider including podcasts in your company’s training materials:

  1. Podcasts – the cool version of dramatic radio

    Today we don’t get much scripted drama on the radio (though to be fair the news, especially the tabloid aspects are thoroughly dramatic) but the immense engaging potential of listening has not diminished one bit. This is why podcasts are becoming one of the most popular means of media.

    Pretty much anybody can make them with minimal effort, from celebrities looking to communicate with their fans to corporate learning and development professionals.

    In essence, a podcast is very similar in structure and style to a radio talk show, and it can be listened to using an iPod or MP3 player. It is also easy to make a podcast downloadable through a regular computer, tablet or smartphone. One can really download a podcast on just about anything, which makes it so much easier to use in corporate learning since no special gadgets are required.

  2. Podcasts are a smart way of resource consumption

    But apart from the fact that they can be easily created and do not require a lot of expertise, podcasts also have the advantage of taking up very little broadband resources. Especially when a company has sites in developing countries where internet is not very widespread, the transfer rates are pretty low while the costs run high, it is best to employ this method for delivering information.

    Videos are great but they do take longer to make, consume data packages at incredible speeds and need a rather consistent broadband in order to play without permanently pausing to load. Podcasts, on the other hand, can be downloaded once and then listened to offline, put on repeat and shared with a minimal resource consumption.

    Furthermore, since everybody has either subscribed to a podcast before or at least listened to the radio, it’s an environment everyone feels comfortable with and that is a big advantage for learning. They are also less disruptive to everyday workflows as one can listen to a podcast while also performing some other activity that doesn’t necessarily require a lot of attention.

  3. Podcasts deliver a personalized feel

    There’s much talk in corporate training about the need to personalize both content and delivery. Podcasts can do that by creating a conversational framework which inherently leads to improved effectiveness and retention.

    While e-learning offers a lot of advantages that classic classroom training fails to do, it sometimes feels like it takes away the element of learning from an expert and that sense of personal communication involved with having face time with an instructor. With podcasts, one can still take advantage of the benefits of e-learning and also keep those essential elements that come with classroom instruction.

    Employing podcasts as a training tool keeps learners in control of the situation thus harnessing the numerous benefits of self-directed employee learning paths. Using podcasts as part of the onboarding process and later on for training and development can prove to be an excellent way to build loyalty and to help create a more “personal” relationships between company executives and employees.

  4. Podcasts have the power to engage

    Yet probably the main reason why podcasts should definitely be considered as a powerful tool in corporate learning is because they are extremely engaging. According to a recent article in a popular New York magazine there’s an epic rise in storytelling popularity, owed probably to the great technological advances of late.

    With smartphones allowing for very good clarity of sound and effects, podcasts have the capacity to grab and hold the listener’s attention for extended periods of time. Natural human curiosity drives us to pay attention and not miss what happens or what gets said next.

    Researcher Paul Zak argued in this study that experiencing this sort of tension makes people feel stressed, which drives their bodies to release the hormone and neurotransmitter oxytocin. Since oxytocin is known to increase empathy, carefully listening and expecting to find out what follows results in a high degree of involvement with the content being narrated. For L&D professionals this offers a great opportunity to transform whatever information needs to be transmitted into good audio material and put it out there.

Are you convinced yet?

There was a window of time in which audio material did fall behind the video version but these days it has gained back all the lost terrain. Podcasts can’t replace other means of delivering training but they ought to be part of any effective learning team’s arsenal.