Be a Better Teacher and Writer: 6 Teaching Techniques You Should Know

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Marketing is a chance for education.

Sometimes, marketing takes the form of entertainment, but often, you get to assume the role of a teacher.

This is really powerful. You can become one of the few educational influences in most people’s lives after they leave school.

Beyond helping your business grow, inbound marketing allows you to make a real impact.

Partly, that’s why I’m still so passionate about it even after all these years.

Once you start thinking of yourself as an educator, you can become an even better marketer by learning from traditional teachers.

I’m going to show you 6 different teaching techniques you can use to make your marketing content even more useful to your readers. 

1. Use the “desire” method

You might already be using this method even if it’s not intentional.

The “desire” method is all about getting students’ attention.

Think of an average class, even at the university or college level. Most students don’t want to be there.

They feel like they’re learning something that probably won’t be very useful and just want to know what’s on the exam so that they can pass it.

One of the main reasons for this is because lectures are set up to teach about a topic, not to satisfy a desire.

For example, in a computer science course, you might have a lecture about sorting algorithms or asymptotic complexity.

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Even if you have an interest in computer science, those titles alone won’t get you excited about learning.

What happens in the first few minutes of those lectures?

More or less the same thing every time. It’s usually a slide about “what you will learn,” which again just lists the specific things included in that topic.

The solution is to build desire: What if you started off with the benefits of learning the topic?

Back to our example about asymptotic complexity, which basically just classifies how fast an algorithm can run (how complex it is).

What if, as a teacher, instead of saying that your students will hear a lecture on “asymptotic complexity,” you say that they will learn how to “find inefficiencies in code and speed up their applications.”

That’s already more attractive and speaks to what students really want to learn.

The intro slides could focus on how coders at Google use the concept of asymptotic complexity in their daily work. Or how a long-time coding problem was solved because someone found a way to reduce the complexity of the coding solution.

Using the desire method in your content: This concept is all about focusing on benefits to readers and customers. More so, it’s about conveying those benefits in the headline and at the beginning of any content.

While many marketers don’t know why they do it, this is the reason why having a benefit-driven headline is so important. If you’re teaching something that will help your reader accomplish something, make it clear!

In addition, your introduction is your chance to show your reader what could be possible if they learned what you are about to teach. Cite statistics, case studies, personal experiences, and anything else that shows how great the results can be.

2. Games are more fun than work

Ask anyone whether they’d rather read a textbook or played a video game, and you’ll get the same answer 99% of the time.

Educators have realized that students learn better if they are fully engrossed in a lesson, which happens if they are having fun.

That’s where the concept of “gamification” came from.

No, you don’t have to create a video game for your content, but there are ways to make your content more game-like and fun for readers.

Let’s look at a few ways you could do this.

Example #1 – Quizzes can be fun: A quiz can be either fun or boring, depending on the topic.

Online quizzes draw engagement and grow in popularity when done right—that’s a fact. A study of 100 million articles in 2013-2014 found that 80% of the most popular pieces of content were quizzes.

For example, the top one was: “What Career Should You Actually Have?”:

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By framing it around fun careers (Oprah on the intro image), the creators drew people to the quiz.

When you create a piece of content, consider designing a quiz to go with it.

There are many free tools, such as Qzzr, that you can use to create a quiz. You just copy and paste the HTML code that it gives you into your content:

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If you use WordPress, you could try the SlickQuiz plugin, which allows you to create quizzes from inside your admin panel:

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Another benefit of using quizzes is that most people who take them will consider sharing their results with friends, bringing you additional traffic.

Most quiz tools include social sharing buttons on the results screen to encourage sharing.

Example #2 – The M&M’s pretzel scavenger hunt: This was a fun but simple game that M&M’s made in 2013.

The whole came consisted of one simple picture in a Facebook post.

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The objective was to find the hidden pretzel man in the image. Even without getting any prize, Facebook users loved the simple game and shared it with their friends.

This game resulted in 25,000 new likes on the product’s Facebook page plus over 10,000 comments and 6,000 shares.

Example #3 – How Heineken successfully used an Instagram game: During one of the biggest events in tennis, the 2013 US Open, Heineken created an Instagram account.

A new account was loaded with 225 pictures of people in tennis audiences.

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To win the game, you had to follow clues in the pictures that led you to the final picture.

It was essentially a complicated scavenger hunt.

This game lasted only 3 days, but Heineken increased its follower count by 20%.

3. Start with pain

This tactic goes well with the desire method (from #1 above).

People are motivated in two main ways:

  • To get benefits
  • To avoid pain

It’s natural to want to get good things and avoid bad ones.

Focusing on inducing desire was about the benefits. It’s achieved through showing what learning about your topic will do for your reader.

Here, though, you want to drill home what will happen if they don’t learn from your content.

For example, if you write a guide to correct posture, you could point out that if the readers don’t learn from your guide, they may develop poor posture, accompanied by back and neck pain and chronic discomfort.

Desire and pain can be used together, or they can be used separately.

Here are a few headlines that focus on benefits:

Here are a few that focus on pain:

The same goes with your introduction. Pain, especially if the reader is already aware of it, is a great way to get their full attention.

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If you illustrate the pain well, readers will pay close attention to your work, which will result in better learning.

4. Chunking works wonders

There’s more to teaching than just getting the attention of your students.

You also want to teach your material in a way that maximizes how well a student learns as well as remembers what you taught.

That’s where chunking comes in:

Chunking involves breaking up a complex topic into smaller “chunks.” Studies have shown that this improves short-term memory retention.

The classic example is phone numbers.

Most phone numbers consist of 10 individual numbers, for example: 2338223948.

If someone just read out those numbers, they’d be hard to remember. However, if you separate them into three chunks, it gets a lot easier: 233-822-3948.

Applying chunking to content: The main principle behind chunking is breaking down something tough to learn into smaller bits.

When it comes to content, you can use that in two ways.

First, divide up your content into smaller subsections by using subheadlines.

If you look through any of my posts, you’ll notice that I have subheadlines every 200-300 words.

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While there’s no specific length you need to aim for, make sure the subsections don’t get too long. If they do get long, break them up again into further subsections (usually h3 or h4 tags).

Next, you can apply chunking to paragraphs. It’s hard to focus and learn reading long paragraphs.

You should have 2-3 sentences per paragraph maximum in almost all situations. You can see that I have short paragraphs like this one in all the content I create.

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This is a simple change that makes a big difference.

5. Understand and use VAK

Something that educators need to understand is that not everyone learns the same way.

One popular viewpoint is “VAK,” which stands for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Or in regular terms: seeing, hearing, and touching.

Different people learn best in different ways. Some need to touch things to learn, while others prefer seeing.

However, the vast majority of people learn best when more than one (or all three) ways of receiving information are involved.

To illustrate this concept, let’s go through an example.

Pretend you were teaching how to pump up a basketball. Here are examples of different ways to teach it:

  • Visual: Write a blog post on how to pump up a ball; you could include pictures. Or create an infographic, detailing the process.
  • Auditory: Create an mp3 recording explaining the steps.
  • Kinesthetic: Give a student a deflated ball and pump, and explain how to pump it up (would also include a visual or auditory explanation).
  • Visual+Auditory: Create a video that shows you pumping up a ball and explaining how to do it.

As you can see, there are multiple ways you can teach a topic for each learning type.

In addition, you could create multiple forms of content for a single topic. For example, you could create a podcast narration of a blog post so that your audience could both read (visual) and hear it (auditory).

The takeaway here is to try to involve multiple ways of learning for all your content. If you can get your audience to take action (i.e., go find a ball to work on), you can involve kinesthetic learning as well.

6. Engagement leads to knowledge

Many studies have shown that the more engaged students are, the better they learn.

The term engagement covers a bunch of different concepts, but it usually refers to any time when a student is actively doing something while learning. Examples would be things like asking questions, talking productively with peers, thinking, and answering quizzes.

While some of the other techniques we’ve looked at are difficult to apply online, improving engagement is very possible—not only in your content but in other areas of marketing like social media and email.

For example, we’ve already looked at including quizzes in content, which is an opportunity for students to engage.

Additionally, you can change how you write content and the type of content you write in order to get more engagement.

Here are some other guides that dig into this topic in more detail:

Conclusion

Being a teacher is a big responsibility, especially online, where you could be teaching thousands with your content.

By using the proven teaching techniques described in this post, you can help your readers learn better and take more action.

Ultimately, you’ll make a bigger impact, which will also benefit your own business.

Many of these techniques can be combined, so use any or all of them—whatever applies to your content.

Comments

  1. Ujjwal Kumar Sen :

    Hello, @Neil its really amazed me to write this article its been fours years I have been teaching and blogging from last five years.

    But, I did not know about one of your techniques which is really going to help me, lets see how much it will help you.

    That technique is “Understand and use VAK”, its just mind blowing.

    Thanks

    • Techniques like VAK will change the way people engage with your content. I’m excited for you try these techniques out!

  2. Adi Thacker :

    Neil – another great post. thanks. I wanted to add to your “4. Chunking works wonders” point – A great way to chunk up content for an article, blog or press release is to use a chunked up writing editor like WriteWell. Chunking up your writing is a great way to a) overcome the blank page – by breaking your writing task into smaller pieces b) organize your topic into a logical, coherent format. Several thousands content marketers, professionals and students use WriteWell’s (writewellapp.com) “chunked” editor. I think it’s worth a try!

    • Thanks for the tip Adi, I’ll have to check it out. Yeah, you can become much more effective with your communication by doing these things

  3. David Throop :

    Neil,
    You hit on one really important aspect of teaching – that learners don’t all absorb and learn the material in the same way. Some are auditory; others are visual, and some still need to get their hands dirty – so thank you for identifying the need to think about all three in your teaching and writing.

    Thanks for making that crucial point to your audience.

    • Everyone has a preferred way of learning, you’re job as a teacher is to accommodate that for your learners

  4. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for those reminders. Sometimes marketing and organizational skills require us to think outside the box.

    I learned the chunking concept a corporate job. It really helped to clarify and organize concepts.

    • Yes, it’s a great strategy when you’re working with a lot of information that needs to be chunked up and down

  5. Randy Downs :

    Great advice.will work on. VAK.

    I notice that your posts usually chunk into 1-2 sentences/paragraph.

  6. Chris Hines :

    Some great insights there, Neil. I particularly liked the Heineken reference as I think some of their marketing is very clever. Thanks for the article.

  7. Thanks Neil. I will try the chunking method- great post!

  8. uthman saheed :

    I love the Desire method and how it is explained. I will try it out in teaching online. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Hey Lecturer Neil, thanks for the content in the post. It is true that when blogging/teaching online, we need to do everything responsibly and take a lot of thought into the manner in which we convey our content. Personally, I have learnt things like carrying out PPC campaigns in a simulated environment which brings into play your ‘gamification’ idea where we understand more in a dynamic and vibrant environment. For brand building in a game format, search for CESIM and for learning how to carry out advertising/marketing campaigns, I have found Simbound to be great for learning. Thanks for the post, much appreciated.

    • The learning is non stop, especially as these things are evolving and changing so rapidly, you need to be tuned to what’s coming ahead.

  10. I have forwarded this post to a lecturer friend, who was looking for ways to improve his lecturers and engage his students more.

    I have to say that I have been trying to figure out why your blog posts are so easy to read and you pointed it out today-2-3 sentences in a line.

    • Glad this was helpful Julie. My writing has evolved a lot over the last decade and has been refined to provide my users with the best experience

  11. Harshit Sharma :

    I think using different methods along with quizzes , puzzles, infographics perform better. Is there any other type of content which is not common that works better.

  12. I see you use a lot of facts and figures in every article you post. I humbly ask you to share your source of inspiration to put up such great content.

    How do you hunt for such? Could you mind sharing, so that we readers can even get a solid direction

    Thank you

    • I have someone who helps gather and research the information 🙂

      • Oh, that’s good… Well, it seems you have gathered and work with like minded people.

        It’s seems a nice co-ordination between you and your research team.

        Kudos to you and your team for invaluable efforts.

        Cheerzzz

        • I am happy this was helpful Saket. Let me know if you have any other questions I can help you with

  13. Very useful piece of content for everyone (not just teachers).
    A big thank you.

  14. alisha bacon :

    These are game changers! I’m not a teacher, but I’m 100% sure I can use some of these in my business, and with my kids.

  15. I believe people would more visual than text, and when text got broken down, it’d definitely be easier to read.

  16. Rocky Murasing :

    Hello Neil,

    Another great content of yours, I must say. Well, sharing a short personal experience in teaching, “building a desire/attraction for students into a certain subject is very important”, agreed with your statement on this. especially when you are teaching kids, they could get destructed easily, and it is very important to focus on making them focused. It is a bit hard though. Same thing goes on teaching college students.

    • Teaching is a lot harder than people make it out to be. It’s a different way of looking at things, at a level with more depth

  17. Hi Neil,

    Great post as always. All the points mentioned are very useful for effective content writing. I have been in this field from long but sometimes it is very challenging how to show your work effectively which can give good ROI. After reading this post has learned a lot and will surely implement the above techniques in future. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • You’re welcome Digiwhiz, I’m glad this was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions I can help with

  18. Hey Neil Great article, as always! What is the comment Plugin you use, so an error Message doesn’t Redirect you to a separate Page if you forget to fill out all the fields?

  19. Mudit Saxena :

    Hi Neil,

    Ever thought about writing a book ? 🙂

    Regards,
    Mudit Saxena

  20. Thanks Neil. I will Surely Try this chunking method- great post!

  21. Heide Padilla :

    Hey, Neil. Awesome post as usual. I do have one question. I want to publish a quiz post like one you mentioned above. In fact I already have the questions compiled and finished about a month ago. I wanted to use it as a sort of leaf magnet. Whoever signs up will get a copy or access to the questions. Do you think that’s a good idea or should I just publish the questions openly? Or is there a tool or plugin that I can use to publish the questions in public but when readers finish the questions, they’ll have to sign up to get the results?

    • I think it would be worth testing out both theories Heide. There are q&A tools to you use to create discussion boards

  22. Great article Neil, will try and apply some of these techniques when I write my next piece of content. I’ve been very fond of learning the psychology behind writing content that continually engages readers – I know that invoking fear is a powerful option but there is a possibility that could backfire.

    Thoman

    • Most people aren’t paying attention to the user behavior, and a lot of that is psychology.

  23. Very useful piece of content for everyone.
    Thanks for Sharing this.

  24. shiva subba :

    Hi neil

    You had point out the useful topic which we face while writing content for blog. I hope applying your tips in my blog might help me.

    Neverless keep going you doing a great job.

  25. I want to publish a quiz post like one you mentioned above. In fact I already have the questions compiled and finished about a month ago. I wanted to use it as a sort of leaf magnet. Whoever signs up will get a copy or access to the questions.

  26. Hello Neil;
    I am simply surprised 🙂 the way you point out this things really amaze me…. by this article also kind of teaching… Yes; i’ve found helpful your article. Guess what! i am a home tutor as well as 🙂 so you can simply guess how your article help me out.

    thank you very much
    Debasish

  27. Wow, now you going into this, that’s amazing

  28. Tauseef Alam :

    Hi Neil,

    I recently started teaching people. Your post comes out at the very right time for me. Thanks for the wonderful article.

    Regards
    Tauseef Alam

  29. Marfani Group :

    Currently as per new algorithm Content is king, I have learn lot’s of new thing from this post.

  30. Jessica Paul :

    Hello Neil,

    It’s very useful information for everyone, the way you point out this things really amazing….I like the desire method and the way of explanation.

    Thanks for Sharing this.

    • You’re welcome Jessica, I’m glad this helped. Let me know what kind of improvements you notice

  31. Taking into account the fact that many teachers are started to realize the importance of gamification for students as a medium to engage them into learning, I very like your idea about quizzes and instgram games. All the more, the benefits of using gamification in class are countless. According to this article https://unplag.com/blog/gamification-in-the-classroom/, the fist step to successful implementation of gamification is the breaking down of game theory into its basic component: rules of play, point scoring, competition, score boards and prizes.

    • Nice, thanks for further elaborating on that. School is typically boring, learn to make it fun

  32. Arbaz Shaikh :

    Hello Sir
    4 days ago I got email from AdSense that my account is fully activated and I will be seeing ads within few hrs.I have applied the ad code and its more than 48 hrs but I m still not able to see any ads on my website.Please help me with the issue.

  33. G.Billy Judson :

    It’s very useful information , the way you point out this things really amazing.

  34. I use to teach english in Thailand back in my early 20’s and its refreshing to see some of the methods listed here (especially chunking). Awesome post neil!

  35. Thanks for sharing this post about the better Teaching Techniques. This post help me in my work. Thanks a lot.