Archive for February, 2016


Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – March edition


Debra Zabloudil, president and CEO, The Learning Studio Inc.

Q & A with Debra Zabloudil, president and CEO, The Learning Studio Inc.

Q: If I were writing a book about your life, what would the title be, and why?
A: It would be titled, “An Unexpected Life” because life has thrown a number of things my way that most would not have expected (good and bad). As an emerging adult, my life looked set, to be fairly prescribed and somewhat privileged, and it has turned out to be a different landscape. But somehow you live and work through it all and come out better on the other end.

Q: Give us one little-known fact about you.
A: My family has been blessed by adoption, and I am a very big proponent of adoption as a beautiful way to build a family.

Q: Learn: How do you learn best – in a coffee shop with lots of noise or in a quiet, library-like setting? 
A: For me, it’s much less about the setting. I learn best by inspiration. When something makes me “feel something” it stays with me. (I love the quote from Maya Angelou that people don’t remember what you say; they remember how you made them feel.) I also learn by connecting the dots in my own mind, by seeing something or hearing something that inspires me or makes me think and by connecting it to my life, my work, my client’s needs, etc.

Q: Network: Some people are wallflowers while others are natural networkers. Which are you? 
A: I am a natural networker. I’m pretty sure I “popped out” that way. I truly love meeting new people, and have a genuine interest in knowing what makes other people tick.

Q: Transfer: Let’s say you just attended a certification course. What would be your first step in applying what you learned? 
A: It may sound a bit old school, but when I am learning, I take notes – physically in a notebook. Then, when I have a quiet moment, I go back to the notebook, transfer the thoughts I want to expand on to a different page and start extrapolating and drawing connections (picture charts, arrows, etc.). For me, it helps to expand on the learning and take it to the next level.


6 Simple Ways to Turbocharge Learning and Retention at Meetings

This month’s guest blog post is by Jenny Stanfield, lead event producer for Engagement Unlimited. It was originally published on the Event Manager blog.

Follow her on Twitter at @thejenstanfield.

Jenny Stanfield

Jenny Stanfield, lead event producer, Engagement Unlimited

How can you ensure attendees retain information long after the event is over, rather than forgetting their learning and newfound knowledge the moment they leave the venue?

Here are six simple ways to turbo-charge learning and retention at your next meeting.

Incorporate storytelling

Weaving an interesting narrative into educational content not only provides entertainment value and instant connection to the storyteller (speaker), it also has been scientifically proven to promote ‘neural coupling’ – a phenomenon that connects an audience with a speaker by prompting their own memories of past experiences that relate to that story. Encouraging your expert speakers to draw from their own lives in their content delivery will also foster a sense of inclusivity and reliability – making them seem more trustworthy and approachable beyond the session.

Promote messy learning

Breaking out of the talking-head mode for your educational sessions is the best way to guarantee participant engagement.

Try incorporating psychologist Jerome Bruner’s Theory of Development through Discovery Learning (“messy learning”) into your breakout sessions. Discovery Learning simply means having students actively participate in the teaching process through verbal and tactile exercises. This is a great way to reformat a session to allow for real-life problem solving situations.

Challenge your speakers to prime participants to be open to new information by introducing hard questions and experiments and having them wrestle with the answers before delivering their content and giving the correct answers. This will motivate the group and give them a more personalized, tailored learning experience. Like storytelling, this teaching style prompts participants to draw on past experiences and knowledge to help learn new things.

Get people talking

In the classroom, teachers regularly call on their students to answer questions. This keeps everyone on his or her toes and sets an expectation to verbalize educational content in their own way (and lock it in!).

As event professionals, our clients expect our participants to gain valuable resources to use in the real world, and in order to do that they need to be able to communicate what they’re learning effectively. Prompting participants for answers to questions and encouraging group discussions will help the speaker assess what needs to be reiterated and help facilitate a deeper understanding of the material.

Negotiate the space

One of the simplest hacks for amping up learning lies in how we set up our meeting spaces. Beyond the basics – lighting, temperature, noise level, etc. – it is extremely important to consider how participants and speakers negotiate the space they have and maximize the capability for movement.

Small groupings, half rounds, comfortable “living room” style seating with amenities that aid in learning (water, notebooks, pens, worksheets) should be in place. Your speaker should be able to interact directly with groups of participants and weave through the group with ease to answer questions and highlight discoveries.

Mindfulness and intention setting

It’s really simple to circle back to the “big why” by reiterating the purpose of the meeting and checking in throughout your program.

Use your learning coach, conference moderator or MC to communicate your message and lead talk-back sessions that update everyone on the things the group is learning, their successes and the set-backs they are having. Being engaged is imperative to the learning process.

Value wellness breaks

Active breaks during a workday and vacations from work are generally accepted practices to promote productivity, engagement and physical wellness. It makes sense these principles should also be applied to conferences and meetings.

Breaks that give attendees enough time to rest and switch gears are imperative to help them be in the best position to learn. Switching to something physically active to break up the day (mid-day yoga anyone?) or getting outside and participating in a teambuilding activity like a scavenger hunt, along with breaks between sessions for attendees to catch up on work/life matters, will go a long way in keeping everyone happy and engaged all day long.


And the survey says…we’re scared

paris-attacks-new-york-670-1It was a Friday night and it had been a long week. I was just starting to unwind when my iPhone’s email notifications starting coming full blast.

And then the mindless show on TV was interrupted by horrific images of blown up Paris buildings; streets littered with debris; people scrambling for safety. And I sat there, trying to explain to my children why yet another act of terrorism destroyed lives, trying to assure them the world isn’t a dangerous place.

For days, the images of carnage shaped my thoughts. As I ran errands around town, I hoped that copycat incidents wouldn’t happen on my home turf. As for travel…I couldn’t even fathom the repercussions.

I’m guessing many of you experienced the same awful Friday night and since then have been rethinking international travel plans. Or what about your events? Are you prepared to handle acts of terrorism?

In the wake of the Paris attacks – and other acts of terrorism throughout the years – event professionals have grown increasingly concerned about safety, according to the latest Meetings Outlook by Meeting Professionals International.

The winter edition of the report found 44 percent of survey respondents think the meetings and events industry will change due to the increased threat of terrorism.

And this includes educational programming.

For example, MPI’s Carolinas Chapter plans to bolster its risk management education programs by bringing in law enforcement officials and leaders from the Red Cross to discuss how to best handle disaster.

The organization isn’t alone.

More than a quarter of respondents (28 percent) echo MPI Carolinas’ plans, making sweeping changes to how they run meetings. Measures include working with police on evacuation plans and offering employee training on rapid response.

sicurezzaIn addition, 15 percent of survey respondents plan to add security for the events – especially those organizations that host international conferences. Some are employing security agencies for counsel and preparation.

As for corporate travel plans? Increasing costs and security concerns mean fewer people will attend events. Instead of sending the whole staff, many companies will simply choose to send leadership, especially if an event is overseas.

The visa process will change, as will destinations of choice, MPI says.

The ripple effect: cost.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents believe room rates will rise. Food and beverage rates are predicted to increase 4.6 percent and air travel rates 4.2 percent. And so, organizations are spending much more cautiously.

“It’s not just having people at the registration desk but having a bit of heightened security on site,” said Bob Walker of the MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter. “It’s having a larger security detail that is checking badges and making sure people who are in various areas of a hotel or convention hall have the credentials to be there.”

working-retirementIncreased protocol for security also means changing employee demographics, the report found. Why? The industry needs new professionals who have a better understanding of the current landscape, balanced by more seasoned professionals whose experience is invaluable to the newbies.

“For many meeting professionals, the challenge in coming months will be to balance concerns about lower spending power with the need to take advantage of current opportunities,” MPI says. “It’s not an easy one to tackle, but clearly, it’s an increasingly important one to master.”

The above is a lot to digest and the findings may seem a bit dismal. So to summarize:

  • 48 percent of respondents expect the cost of meetings to rise due to the need for increased security
  • 35 percent think room rates will rise by 6 percent or more throughout the next year
  • 31 percent say the number of full-time employees is increasing
  • 33 percent report online collaborative, interactive learning is important

What do you think? Have terrorism and/or safety concerns changed your event operations? Tell us about it.


Coming soon to association learning: gamified learning and microcredentials

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, co-founders of Tagoras

Tagoras recently released its much-anticipated 2016 Association Learning + Technology Report, which contains a wealth of information about associations’ efforts to incorporate technology into their educational programs and platforms.

We know the educational landscape is changing as associations adapt to their members’ learning needs and habits. In fact, almost 90 percent of the nearly 200 associations that responded to Tagoras’ survey reported offering technology-enabled or technology-enhanced education for their members.


Webinars continue to be the No. 1 technological learning tool, followed by online learning programs, such as tutorials or presentations.

But some new types of learning are also emerging: massive open online courses, flipped classes, gamified learning, microcredentials and microlearning, which has the highest rate of adoption.

Other key takeaways from the report:

  • Social media – Not surprisingly, associations use YouTube for education. But Twitter ranks a close second followed by LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Mobile learning – About 41 percent of associations that use technology for learning provide a mobile version of their content. In addition, in the next year, 26 percent plan to go mobile.
  • Live streaming – Not many associations offer virtual conferences, but instead nearly 30 percent said they live stream events.
  • Learning Management Systems – A LMS is the second most popular technology platform. In fact, the percentage of LMS users increased from 51 percent in 2013 to 60 percent in 2015.
  • Data – Despite a growing use in technology, less than one-fifth of respondents said they always use data to decide which learning platforms to use for future educational opportunities.
  • Instructional design – More than 50 percent of associations employ instructional designers.
  • Chief Learning Officer – About 40 percent of respondents said someone within their organization holds a title that incorporates the word “learning.”
  • Knowledge transfer – More than 30 percent of associations reported using technology to sustain learning after the completion of an educational product or service.
  • Credentialing – Across the board, credentialing is becoming increasingly important for education. In fact, 68 percent of associations provide education to support a credential required in their field.

internet-315799_1280Blending technology and learning seems to make business sense for associations. More than half of those surveyed have seen an increase in revenue from their educational offerings. In addition, the associations that employ a Chief Learning Officer, or someone with a similar title, net more revenue from their educational offerings than those that don’t. Read: Credibility counts.

All this said, cost is still a top concern among associations. Just more than 50 percent of respondents said they’re satisfied with the cost of creating educational offerings and the cost of employing staff to develop and execute them.

Somewhat disappointing: Only 18 percent of associations that use technology think they’re successful.

“Technology has changed learning irrevocably, and the rate of change isn’t likely to slow,” Tagoras said. “This creates a clear opportunity for technology to transition into a more significant, more strategic part of the mix of education and professional development associations provide to members.”

As this happens, Tagoras predicts:

  • Growth in implementation of learning platforms and their integration with other key systems, like association management systems
  • A continued focus on professional instructional design to help ensure educational products are effective
  • An increase in competition that will, in turn, drive experimentation as associations look at how best to deliver more value
  • The professionalization of the education function overall and the growth of roles like chief learning officer

Aligning with Event Garde’s tagline, Learn.Network.Transfer, look for blog posts throughout the next few months that break down specific elements of Tagoras’ report.


Wilderness first aid: Lessons learned

12633666_10156400281170524_7967074684603308971_oLook closely at the picture at right. Yes, that’s a pig’s foot. And, yes, I’m pulling a fish hook out of it MacGyver-style with a piece of rope. (By the way, if you noticed the fake blood near my eye and cheek – bonus points.) But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Day 1 of Wilderness First Aid. I’m still alive. Introductions, lecture and hands-on activities indoors. The real work (i.e., fake blood, outdoor simulations and pigs feet) begins tomorrow.
It started like any other professional development experience. Participants were eager to learn what they’d be doing for the next three days. Our instructor (a client and a friend) provided context. And we considered our relevant prior knowledge before turning in for the evening.
Day 2 of Wilderness First Aid. Five outdoor simulations (think fake blood, cuttable clothing, first aid kits and chilly temps), responder/patient debriefs, lecture, copious note taking, trail mix snacking, Nalgene drinking, a flawless fish hook removable (from an honest-to-goodness pig’s foot), SOAP notes, bandage making and much, much more. All in a day’s work with the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) and Jeannette Stawski.
The course continued with a variety of instructional strategies, segmented content sequences and real-life facilitator tips and stories. Practice exercises and meaningful feedback were strategically peppered throughout the day to provide exposure and hands-on experience.
Day 3 of Wilderness First Aid. Countless memories and stories; endless fodder for presentations, blog posts and articles; and, of course, both the injection lab and graduation. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in recreating outdoors. #AORE
Mini-assessments throughout the course helped determine which skills were gained and where more work was needed. Moreover, retention and transfer were supported by a very detailed and user-friendly handbook (The Wilderness Medicine Handbook, Third Edition, by Paul Nicolazzo).
12496402_10156400281240524_4621355446685293082_oSo, the lessons learned?
  1. There’s a lot that could go wrong in the backcountry. It’s probably best not to leave your homes. (Kidding!)
  2. Interestingly enough, this course aligned with Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, a systematic instructional design process (which I quite enjoy!) with a focus on learner outcomes.
  3. As learners (and leaders) it’s important to step away from our functional areas from time to time to gain professional development experiences from thought leaders and in content areas unfamiliar to us. This Wilderness First Aid course has absolutely made me a better learning strategist.
  4. Experiences like these, which allow us to better connect with our staff or clients, cannot be underestimated. The teambuilding opportunities and shared experiences are both memorable and invaluable.
  5. This investment (of both time and money) has already allowed me to better connect with my client’s members. My first-hand glimpse into their world allows me to better relate and collaborate.
What’s been your experience with out-of-the-box professional development opportunities? Leave a comment with your story (good, bad or otherwise).

meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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