What does your attendees say about your event when they get back in the office the morning after?
Do they tell their colleagues what a fantastic day they had, all of what they learned and who they met? Or do they do the ‘walk of shame’ – thinking back on a quite boring day that they really don’t know how to place? “What return did I actually get on my investment (of time, money and energy)?”.
Or, if they do tell their colleagues about the event: Do they only share what happened at the party after the conference (how the color of the drinks matched the event logo, or how the band was superb)?
If your job is to design, plan and execute professional conferences that are meant to change the behavior of the attendees, you want them to remember more than just the party. But, do you take measures to make sure they do remember what they learned?
Support learning at conferences
When you want to take these measures to support learning at your conferences, you could choose to turn to experience management. Originally, it was ‘invented’ to make a product stand out, and that is exactly what we want our conference to do.
And yes, having Madonna visit your after party will certainly make your conference stand out – but if the point of it is changing behavior in one form or another (and I don’t see any conferences where this should not be the main point!), you want your attendees to go back to their everyday life and make these changes to their behavior. Madonna is great, don’t get me wrong. But, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t change anybody’s work life.
Use experience management to support learning
In experience management, we have 5 different tools to help us support learning:
- The experience space: If you design the meeting room and surroundings to accommodate different preferences when sitting down, standing up, networking, relaxing and thinking, each attendee can stay the way he or she feels like.
- The senses: If you make sure that all 5 senses are activated during your meeting, it’s more likely that your attendees remember what they learned as each of the senses are connected to parts of the brain that corresponds with your memory (haven’t you experienced stumbling upon a certain smell that took you back to a specific time or place?).
- The participant involvement: When a person gets involved in the meeting – be it by group work, solving ‘puzzles’, physical activation, games etc. – they learn much more than when they sit passively on rows of chairs all day long.
- The unpredictable: Incorporating small ‘breaks’ or surprises in your conference program or the way you carry it out will keep the attendees’ brains on their toes. Nobody falls asleep with their eyes open when they don’t know what will happen next. And I’m not talking about doing something nasty to them J
- The expectations: Using your pre-event communication wisely will set the stage and create expectations about what will happen at the event. You don’t have to reveal all of your secrets in order to create a hype about your conference.
In the end it’s all about immersion
Using the tools mentioned above will lay the groundwork for the attendees to immerse themselves in the conference. And, in the end that’s all we want.
We cannot make sure that they remember what we taught them, but we can help them along the way by supporting that they felt involved, that the conference was relevant and almost tailor made to each person, that it was unique and authentic, and that the purpose of the conference was met.
So, what does your attendees tell about your conference the morning after…and what do you want them to say?