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Commentary: Participant Centered Education to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Meetings

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I was fortunate to attend  ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference last month. If you’ve never attended, you should try to put it on your calendar for next year. While there are only a few programs, specifically about  meetings  and education (so yes, most won’t qualify for CMP education hours, but all professional education is good), meeting professionals can garner many great ideas  (ha! Hence the name) from those sessions about injecting fresh and creative learning formats into conferences.  

Jeff Hurt with Velvet Chainsaw lead a next generation learning  session about participant-centered education. To better meet the needs of adult learners, says Hurt, we must move away from  the outdated expert-centered model, or as some at our table were calling it, the "sage from the stage," and focus on the participant and how they learn best.  Do you want your meeting attendees to hear it or do you want them to learn it? "Telling doesn’t equal learning, nor does covering content mean it has been learned," according to Hurt. "The one who does the work, does the learning." In fact, all of those people tweeting during a meeting actually retain more information, according to a study on the topic.  

Therefore, participant-centered education must be interactive, but it is also flexible, customized and impromtu. Instead of a presenter telling what he wants the audience to know, he puts the needs of the learner first, and determines how to help the adult learner master that content. Meeting professionals need to challenge their presenters and content leaders to think about the participant first. What are the three things he wants them to remember, and how can he design an interactive program to help achieve those learnings?

According to Hurt, there are four components of instructional interactivity. The context must be meaningful, and it must challenge the learner with a question that needs to be answered. It must have an activity directed toward that context and challenge, and it must provide an opportunity for feedback on the learner’s activity and its effectiveness.

As meeting professionals, we have the ability to affect the outcomes of meetings through effective content delivery by our presenters if we focus on the participant. As the value of meetings continue to come under increased scrutiny, we need to ensure that learning is taking place, objectives are met, and our meetings are effective vehicles for knowledge sharing through participant-centered education.

Note: Jeff Hurt’s colleague at Velvet Chainsaw, Sarah Michel, CSP will be speaking at the CMP Conclave on meeting design and how the meeting environment can enhance learning. If you haven’t already registered yet, do so today. Join us in Spokane for the education and networking event you've been waiting for! 

Karen Kotowski, CAE, CMP is the Chief Executive Officer of the  Convention Industry Council. 


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