If you’re hosting an event with a strong educational component, it’s your job as an event planner to ensure everyone leaves with maximum value from your educational sessions. Yes, people care about the food, entertainment, and decor, but they come to learn.
But traditional lectures and presentations can be quite boring! No one likes to stare at podiums and PowerPoint presentations for hours, no matter how interesting they find the topic.
Instead of hosting the same educational sessions your guest can find at any event, mix them up with some of these ideas.
1. Create Opportunities for Micro-Learning
Sadly, your guests don’t learn as much from your educational sessions as you’d like them to. Thanks to the Forgetting Curve, they’ll lose a substantial portion of your educational content without repetition and reinforcement.
This effect is so profound that most people forget what they learned within two days. If you’re hosting a multi-day event, they could lose everything before they even get home!
So how do you reinforce their lessons so they don’t lose all that valuable information? By injecting micro-learning moments throughout your event.
Micro-learning is a holistic approach to education where you create lots of small learning units. You can use micro-learning to reinforce a traditional lecture or as a substitute for the typical classroom-style educational session. This will help them remember what they learned and take home more value from your event.Instead of hosting the same educational sessions your guest can find anywhere, mix them up with some of these ideas. Click To Tweet
Let’s say you’re hosting a marketing seminar. You have a popular lecture on marketing segmentation. You could pepper small micro-learning opportunities throughout your event space to reinforce the content of that lecture, such as…
- A computer/terminal where people can demo marketing segmentation software.
- Printed posters and 3D displays that depict marketing segmentation in action.
- A segmentation expert who gives segmentation advice in two or three minutes.
- A TV that plays a video about segmentation on repeat.
- Downloadable resources delivered to lecture attendees hours or days after the lecture.
2. Schedule Trainings for Maximum Learning
When you schedule your educational sessions is just as important as what you cover and how it’s taught. It’s important to avoid running trainings during the times when people are least likely to pay attention and get value from the experience.
Avoid hosting educational sessions immediately after guests arrive at the event space. Travelers will often be too tired from their journey to focus on dense material. They might show up and listen, but their brains won’t be in the right place to process the information. Ultimately, they won’t get much from the session.
If your event spans multiple days, avoid scheduling your educational sessions and lectures for the first day. Give people time to explore the event space, meet some new people, settle into their hotel rooms, and get a night’s sleep. Host your trainings first thing the next morning when they’re bright and ready to learn.
You’ll also want to avoid hosting educational sessions during lunch hours (unless you’re providing lunch, though this is often a distraction) and the very end of the day (when people are tired). Use these time slots for less intense activities, like networking and unscheduled time.
3. Choose a Room That Fits the Audience
This is a simple change that can have a powerful effect on your guests’ learning.
Just like you wouldn’t choose an event venue that’s too large for your guest list, it’s best not to use a lecture room that’s too big for the number of people you expect to attend.
What happens if the room is too big? Engagement suffers. People sit at the back, far from the speaker and presentation media. They tend to put a lot of space between one another, which prevents them from conversing and networking. Simply put, big rooms are generally awkward for small groups of people.
Estimate how many people you expect to attend the educational session. Choose a room that will fit 20% more people than you expect to accommodate walk-ins. Keep some spare chairs nearby in case the room fills up more than you expect.
Estimating the number of people who will attend is challenging, but not impossible. You can require them to sign up for each educational session when they register for your event. This will give you a hard count, but you’ll have to verify attendance by taking a roll call at the beginning of the session or marking their eligibility on their ID badge, bracelet, or ticket.
If you don’t want to require your guests to sign up for each educational session, you can simply survey attendees about their interests in the registration form.
4. Schedule “Unconference” Meetings
Unconferencing is a structure that’s becoming more popular in educational conferences (teacher professional development), but you can apply the principles to any event.
An unconference is an open-ended educational session where the agenda is set by the attendees. Attendees are in charge of organizing themselves by leading and participating in discussions.
Hosting an unconference is simple: Set up some counter-height tables in an open room. Don’t add chairs. You want people to be free to move around. Write themes on note cards and place them on each table. Invite your attendees into the room and explain the situation briefly. Don’t burden them with too many rules because you want them to have the freedom to learn however they please.
For best results, it helps to notify everyone about the unconference before your event. Tell them to be prepared for this open-ended format. If you’re worried about no one stepping up to lead, enlist some attendees as helpers who will stimulate discussion.
5. Mess with the Format
Our brains like pattern and uniformity. We rely on what we know to ease our processing load, but this tends to make us “check out.” If you only give your guests what they’re familiar with, they’ll find it easy to disengage from your educational sessions.
An easy way to keep them engaged is to deprive them of the familiar. Change the format of your educational sessions repeatedly throughout the training.
Do they expect a quiz at the end? Then give it to them at the beginning. Are they accustomed to sitting at rows of tables? Then make them sit in bean bag chairs. Instead of showing them pictures of some new device, put one in everyone’s hands. Make them move around the room, talk a walk outside, or play a physical game.
The goal here isn’t to make them uncomfortable, but to break them out of their familiar patterns. Survey them during registration to find out what they expect, then break that expectation during the session.
Get Creative with Your Educational Sessions
We’ve given you a few ideas to mix up the structure of your educational sessions, but feel free to get creative. Ask your speakers and presenters for ideas. You could even survey your attendees to find out what they like in an educational session. New experiences will engage your attendees, help them learn, and ultimately make them remember your event fondly.