Saturday, February 20, 2010

Five Steps to Creating a Rich Attendee Learning Environment

I had a lunch/meeting with two Experient colleagues this past week and our conversation really was terrific.  At some point our discussion turned towards social media. (Imagine that)  One of my colleagues referred to my enthusiasm for social media.

Admittedly, I do have a passion for technology.  In fact, I am fascinated by it.  What really gets my “motor running” though, is thinking about utilizing technology as a customer service tool.   Since I work as a consultant in the Meetings and Events business I am very interested in the influence of technology on services provided to meeting attendees.  Most notable of those services is education content.

Reasonably, education sessions, at a meeting or conference,  should not only share quality information with participants, but perhaps, more importantly,  should engender a healthy learning atmosphere.  Unfortunately, education sessions often fall short of that important objective.  Many people (myself included) believe  the core challenge lies with education design.

“The highest function of the teacher consists not so much in imparting knowledge as in stimulating the pupil in its love and pursuit.”

Part of the solution to improving education lies with Event Professionals taking responsibility for helping drive the content development process.  In essence they must engineer productive event experiences for attendees.   So how does the Event Professional lead their organizations from failure to success in providing a rich learning environment?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Understand Your Audience – as with most business endeavors, the key to success lies with learning how attendees prefer to do business, and what their real education needs are.  Ideally, an organization should involve its attendees in the design of the event.  In the business world today, customers expect to have a voice… and they demand to be heard!  If their plea is ignored, they will go elsewhere for their education.
  • Understand Good Adult Learning Concepts By understanding how the brain processes information, understanding attention span, and the important role human interaction plays in promoting a healthy learning environment much can be learned about  event design.  There are a variety of resources available to understand the brain’s role in the learning process.  Here are links to a couple of articles on this subject:

  • Leverage Technology as a tool to Enhance the Experience — Web 2.0 has opened the door to many applications that will encourage interaction, collaboration, and excitement at an event.  For a robust conversation regarding these tools please read the following blog articles:
  • Create an engaging event atmosphere — In order for education content to be retained, it must be presented in an environment that supports it.  To put this into perspective, if you walk into a fine dining establishment, you have a certain expectation of that experience.  You might expect the atmosphere to be intimate and conversational, the service impeccable, and the food deliciously exotic.  Yet, if any aspect of those  expectations falls short, your overall experience is negatively impacted.  The same thing applies to education.
  • Hire qualified, engaging speakers/facilitators — the talking head is dead!  Your organization could have a magnificent program lined up, with excellent topics, and great proposed learning outcomes, but if the speaker does not deliver on those objectives in alignment with effective adult learning practices, the program will flop.  Before signing a contract with a speaker, make sure your expectations are aligned with their ability to deliver.

Question — What experiences have you had with education design that proved effective?  How are you creating a rich learning environment at your events?  Please share your thoughts with us!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Hurt February 22, 2010 at 8:05 am


Good stuff. Two of the most important books that have been written in the past couple of years and have had the most impact on presentations is John Medina’s Brain Rules and Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen. Garr & John even collaborated on a Brain Rules presentation about presentation that every meeting professional should read

Howard Gardner, “Frames of Mind: The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences,” and the reserach coming from the University of Michigan on “Learning In A Digital Age,” are also pivotal documents that anyone who is planning meetings should understand.

Any meeting professional interested in learning more about the education design of meetings and events should turn to Thursday night’s #lrnchat from 8-10 pm or #educhat.


Michael M McCurry CMP February 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

@Jeff Hurt,

Jeff, thanks much for the suggested reading and the hashtag communities. I know this is a hot topic to you, and thanks to you it has become a hot topic to me.

Thanks for your mentorship in this area!




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