I was recently asked by Maddie Grant of SocialFish to answer a handful of questions about social learning. One, in particular, caught my attention. I’m including here both the question and my response. I’d love to see how many people are willing to add their advice (and life experiences) to this post.
What advice do you have for someone trying to incorporate social technology and engagement into:
- the formal online learning programs they manage?
During online learning programs, people try their best to multitask. This means that, realistically, they have only one eye or ear on the webinar. The balance of the time they’re likely checking and responding to email, surfing the Internet, looking over a calendar, drafting a memo or balancing a checkbook – or some combination thereof. The likelihood that you have 100 percent of their attention from start to finish is slim to none. Therefore, the best way to keep participants engaged – and therefore the best way to demonstrate return on learning – is to give them something meaningful and constructive to do throughout the program. This could take the form of a moderated chat (in the online learning platform), a question and answer forum on Facebook or Twitter, bonus content (behind-the-scenes pictures and interviews, as well as ebooks, worksheets, checklists, best practices and the like) pushed out via an online member community, live polling or an interactive technology solution for taking notes. Whatever the approach, ask the participant to do more than just listen.
- an online program to complement a live event? (Or a hybrid event.)
Whether the programs happen simultaneously or consecutively, the key is to bridge the two experiences. The onsite experience is generally most appealing because of the face-to-face engagement and inherent networking opportunities available. However, when those participants attending virtually feel as though they’re a part of the onsite experience, they will likely enjoy the format that much more and find it to be an efficient and effective use of both their time and financial resources. Hybrid events may be complemented by social technology in one or more of the following ways: live audio or video streaming, online presentations, live commentary or transcripts, online chat or discussion forums, live blogs, event photographs, event videos, and the integration of other social media tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
- a face-to-face session or program?
For a face-to-face program, it’s important to complement and enhance the learning with social technology while not allowing the technology to detract from the overall goals and objectives of the event in any way. Because all of the participants are meeting together in a single location, some of the natural hurdles experienced in an online learning program are eliminated. Therefore, don’t use every technology available to you and your team. Rather, select a handful of solutions that will improve the learning environment while still leveraging in-person engagement. (Imagine any teenager glued to the television screen playing video games – or any sports enthusiast intently watching Monday night football. Getting them to sustain a conversation or take a break for dinner is nearly impossible. This should not be your intended outcome during a face-to-face program.)
So, my question to you is this: Respond to one, two or all three. Whatever you do, give us your best advice from the front line on this intersection of social technology, engagement and events.