How to re-think education and training to boost interest and attendance

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How to re-think education and training to boost interest and attendanceBy Ben Moorsom

I received some great feedback and many questions from the last article I wrote on high-energy events. One of the questions that caught my attention was around how to ensure you’re bringing the right energy to the education and training components of an event.

We know that if the education and training components of your event are stale, you’ll start to see a drop-off in event attendance. In fact, according to The Decision to Attend Study (January 2015, IAEE, PCMA, and The Experience Institute), the top three things people consider when deciding if they should attend an event are education, networking opportunities, and location. Corporations looking for ROI from their meetings are leaning toward events that demonstrate “business payoff” (i.e. gatherings focused on training, sales, and education) according to MPI’s Fall 2014 Meetings Outlook.

So how do you create these key learning opportunities in a way that will hold attendees’ interest, provide them with value, and generate the results your clients are looking for?

Begin with the layout

You can increase the success of your learning components by re-thinking the venue you choose. Use the brainpower of your partners to design the event layout based on the flow of learning and engagement. Begin with an empty space, your “blank canvas” and think about how your event will flow through it, ensuring learning and engagement are always top of mind. Instead of choosing a standard event space and laying it out as you always have, consider personalizing the space based on the type of group (size, focus, industry, etc.) you’re accommodating.

Modify the event structure

Instead of bringing everyone together for a launch then separating them into traditional breakout groups, consider turning this traditional model on its head. Begin with learning sessions – capture your audience while they’re fresh – then bring everyone together and use your “launch” to continue the learning. When you do something unexpected, you’re more likely to capture your audience’s attention.

Create spaces for knowledge sharing

We have been very successful using learning pods instead of traditional breakout spaces. You take one large space and divide it into “zones” – which are typically more relaxed, less formal spaces designed based on the content of what’s being delivered. Using lounge-style seating, smart boards rather than computers and structured speed chat sessions can all help to promote dialogue. Also consider incorporating coffee breaks into learning sessions or having one zone as a “coffee zone” where participants can continue the conversation over refreshments.

Discover untapped learning opportunities

Tap into a great learning opportunity by setting up a “knowledge bar” in the main space of your venue. Use a long, high table, and position your experts on one side and learners on the other. Scheduling visits, as though you would a book signing, gives participants the chance to ask questions, connect with senior leadership, and learn in a more interactive way.

Integrate education into social events

This one might not come as naturally, but finding subtle ways to integrate learning into gala and team-building events is a great way to take education out of the classroom. If your attendees are already interested in the content, it shouldn’t be hard to continue the learning at these types of events. Consider “conversation-starter” cards placed on cocktail tables or team-building activities designed around the event’s key messages.

Get technology on your side

Smartphones and tablets will be part of your event, whether you like it or not, but they can be incredibly distracting if not used correctly. If the goal of your event is to capture your audience’s attention and hold it, you’re going to have to commandeer their technology. Last fall I wrote about using mobile apps to move people – not just from place to place, but more importantly in terms of engagement.

There are many ways to augment education and training sessions through mobile technology (surveys, quizzes, social media, games, etc.) and to continue the conversation after the event is over. The key is to put thought into how you’re going to integrate technology and do the work necessary to ensure it’s being used in a productive and practical way.

When it comes to education and training, you want to keep in mind that there’s a great deal vying for every participant’s attention – and most people don’t have extra money or time to invest in something that’s not going to be of benefit to them. The events that will attract the most participants and deliver the best results are those that incorporate education and training in a more creative and well thought-out way. This is an evolving process, which means you’ll want to constantly re-evaluate how you’re doing things and push yourself outside the box!

About the author

Ben Moorsom is President and Chief Creative Officer at Debut Group, an agency that specializes in corporate business communication and events across North America. Since 1997, Debut has pioneered new ways of delivering content and has mastered the art of creating greater perceived production value for their clients. For more information on how Ben and his dynamic team of communication and production veterans deliver better results by producing bold creative that is strategically grounded, emotionally engaging, and flawlessly delivered to meet any clients budget visit Debut at www.debutgroup.com.

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