The Art of Effective Directions

The human brain can only hold so much information before it starts to disconnect or shut down. In general, people can remember 3-4 things at a time before they start to miss details. When giving instructions to a group, it’s important keep this in mind to help set you and your participants up for success. Here are a few tips on giving effective directions:

  1. Use the phrase ‘In a minute but not yet’ to spark visualization.  This phrase allows participants to visualize what is expected of them in their head before the act. When participants hear ‘In a minute’, they begin picturing themselves actually doing it. The ‘but not yet’ part lets them know that they need to keep listening before they act-and they actually do! The ‘In a minute’ phrase is a memory device that causes participants to create a moving picture in their mind. It’s also predictive. They take it as fact that they’ll indeed be able to do everything you ask them–without your help.
  2. Make your directions a story.  Stories are powerful and can make mundane or complicated directions come to life, especially if there are a lot of them. Participants will pay closer attention if you make your directions sound like a story progressing from beginning to end.
  3. Act out your directions.  Role modeling what you want participants to do is an extremely effective way of giving directions. Use your body and facial expressions to dramatize the steps you want your participants to take. It provides additional support for their visualization and helps them to better picture themselves completing the tasks you place before them.
  4. Put responsibility on their shoulders  Before you begin your direction, inform the participants that you will only state the rules once, and they will have to rely on Team Memory if they have any questions. This will make them ‘lean into’ your directions, and listen at a different level.