All Insights


The Best Ways to Increase Learner Retention

Kirsty Mac

25 May 2023

As you get older, you start to appreciate education in a way that you may not have done in your younger years, but the desire to learn doesn’t always mean that you are actively holding onto new information as well as you would like to. We spoke with Kirsty Mac, one of Europe’s most sought-after Leadership Consultants, about how you can change how you take information in and hold onto it.

The Best Ways to Increase Learner Retention

Firstly, you need to ask yourself some questions. You need to be in the right state when you’re learning. Are you in a curious state? What’s your mindset? What’s your behaviour like? Your body language changes your state and your behaviour.

If you sit down to read a book, to watch a webinar or to listen to a podcast, think about how you are sat, is your body language open? If not, it implies that your mind is also not open. Changing posture can persuade your own mind that you are open to what you are about to do.

Other than physically changing the way you are stood or sat, actively changing your outlook will help too. Don’t say ‘I need to learn this’ and ‘I need to read these slides’ – take on a different approach. Say, ‘I want to learn this’ and ‘I want to read these slides.’ Become more curious with what you are hoping to do and achieve.

Then you need to incorporate what you have been taught into everyday life, just as you would repeat a new phone number to help your brain remember it. There is a concept called the ‘Forgetting Curve’ but we like to call it the ‘Remembering Curve’, which states that you need to repeat things five times to retain it.

For instance, thirty days after you go on a workshop, you’re going to forget 80 percent of it afterwards if you don’t do anything with it. It’s how can you apply it? It’s a case of  don’t put the manual in the bottom drawer and let’s get on with the day job – which a lot of people do. It’s thinking at the end, “So what? It’s been a great day, what are we going to do with it now?” It’s about book-ending the programme, what are you going to get out of it, what are you going to put into it and now what are you going to do with it?

Putting what you learn into practice as early as possible stops it slipping from your mind. Creating the right environment and being in the right environment is like an anchor for you. For instance, every time we have a meeting, I say, today this is a learning meeting, so you’ve already set the stage for ‘okay I am here to learn’ – it’s what anchors can you set up?

All of these things help with learner retention and doing something with it. It’s incumbent upon us to make it memorable. There’s a beautiful quote:

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

If I, as a facilitator, can create emotion in an app or a blog or a part of our website or a programme that we interact with or a conversation that we have at a meeting then we have created meaning for someone, and that is when things sink in a lot more.

Click here to find out more about our development programmes, or drop our team an email at

Kirsty Mac


Kirsty Mac is an executive coach, speaker, facilitator and conference host. Her specialities include leadership development, communications, customer experience and coaching. Kirsty works with top entrepreneurs and executives to help them to new levels of performance and success.

View Profile