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.

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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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