The internet has revolutionized the way we learn and drastically streamlined our process of gathering data. For planners, this change means people register for conferences for the experience, not simply to gain new information. Individuals attend a conference to engage with one another and have a firsthand experience.
According to a study from UCLA, the retention rate of listening to a lecture—considered passive learning—is only about 10 percent. However, that retention rate increased to 50 percent when the subjects took notes on the content; grew to 60 to 70 percent when they discussed or collaborated with colleagues; and rose to an impressive 90 percent when they presented the information they learned, the study reports. Foster active participation to optimize the information attendees will retain and therefore increase their ROI by incorporating these five ideas into your education.
Provide structured note taking.
Tap into that 10-to-50-percent retention rate increase by encouraging speakers to provide handouts for attendees to use as they listen. These forms can be fill-in-the-blank style or have a few prompts followed by a section for notes. Speakers can refer to the handouts often, making them an important part of presentations.
Facilitate discussion groups.
Much of the true learning and understanding that occurs at a conference takes place in the hallways. This is where attendees start to socially construct their own understanding of what they just heard. Capture those moments and make them a formal part of the event by adding facilitated discussion groups. Forgo the traditional 90-minute conference lectures and replace them with more 15-minute presentations (think TED Talks style) that serve as catalysts for 75 minutes of facilitated discussion.
Offer solution-oriented gatherings.
Conference participants arrive with a list of problems, so create a gathering or forum where they can share their current challenges and discuss solutions. Participants can define the gathering’s agenda by deciding which topics they want addressed, thereby taking ownership in their own learning. It’s also a guaranteed way to make sure the information presented is relevant to them. The key to a solution-oriented gathering is facilitating, not leading, to ensure attendees are the ones asking the questions and sharing knowledge.
Ask attendees to take turns discussing in pairs.
An easy way to add discussion to a presentation is for the presenter to ask the audience to turn to a neighbor to discuss the topic presented. This exercise takes no additional meeting space nor a trained facilitator, but it taps into the 60 to 70 percent information retention rate that results from discussion.
Challenge participants to report back to managers or peers.
The pinnacle of adult learning is that impressive 90 percent retention rate that comes from teaching others. Challenge conference attendees to take the initiative back to their offices and present to their teams what they learned at the conference and what they will do differently as a result.