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How experiential learning can take boring out of your meetings

This post is by Dana Saal, Saal Meeting Consulting.

Meetings can be boring simply because content delivery is unexciting. An effective and low-cost way to make meetings less boring is to feature experiential learning.

Adults learn better in their primary learning style*, but learning is furthered when teaching moves through all learning styles.

* visual=seeing and watching; auditory=listening and speaking; kinesthetic=experiencing and doing                      

Experiential learning allows participants to observe, practice, analyze and apply what they’ve learned. They are moving through all learning styles, fully engaged. Engaged participants are un-bored participants.

Because meeting attendees want to connect, learn and enjoy, each event and session should fulfill at least two of these expectations. Some examples:

Mixer —The Connecting Card

Challenge participants to meet new people by getting answers to questions printed on cards you distribute at registration. They can then introduce each other, sharing the answer. [Bonus tip: Print the questions on the back of a sponsor’s business card.] I used these for a meeting planner association:

  • What is the best hotel concession you’ve seen?
  • What does your meeting offer that attendees can’t get anywhere else?
  • What is the funniest question an attendee has asked?

Learning styles: visual (watching), auditory (speaking), kinesthetic (doing). Expectations: connecting, enjoyment

Brainstorming — Challenge Questions

Provide a list of questions to be answered in small groups. I used these prompts for a communications group:

  • Your newsletter is boring (really). What changes can you make?
  • You have to plan the next online meeting. How can you ensure that each participant is actively engaged?
  • Oh no! It’s happened. Your group has generated negative press. Now what?
  • Your budget has been decreased by 25 percent, but not the expectations. Where do you start?

Learning styles: visual (watching), auditory (listening, speaking), kinesthetic (experiencing, doing). Expectations: connecting, learning

Hands On — Workshop

Present a session in a workshop format. For example, “Design a Marketing Campaign” could include:

  • Conducting a mini focus group with an interviewer
  • Sketching graphics with an ad agency pro
  • Designing a photo shoot with a photographer.
  • Writing tweets with a social media expert

Learning styles: visual (seeing, watching), auditory (listening, speaking), kinesthetic (experiencing, doing). Expectations: connecting, learning, enjoyment

For groups that don’t embrace change, introduce experiential learning incrementally. Include the mixer, one brainstorming challenge and one workshop at your next event. Take note of what type of attendees participate and how many so you can build on those experiences for the next year.

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