Personalization is essential to a successful event. It’s quickly becoming an attendee expectation. But how do you personalize learning outside of tracks in a way that scales?
If marketers, and more generally business people, have discovered anything over the past few years it’s that everyone wants to be unique. Some of us even want to be our own planet with orbiting satellites that are interested in our every move. We share what we eat, love, places we go, superheroes we are most like, celebrities we are most likely to date, and a host of other ridiculous things, but this egocentrism has created a new challenge for event planners.
It’s no longer enough to host and plan a nice event. It has to be amazing in the eyes of every attendee. The personalization that is expected by attendees enters all areas and with beacons and wearables, these expectations in personalization will only increase. One of these areas that is relatively easy to personalize is education. This has been happening as long as there have been tracks but today’s attendee expectations are increasing.
Types of Learners
When it comes to personalization of event learning, topics are the first thing that comes to mind. This is easy enough to do and most event planners know that having topics of interest to attendees is critical to event success. That’s why many events have turned to crowdsourcing of event learning.
But there are other kinds of personalization as well, including appealing to the different types of learners out there. There are over 70 types of learner classifications but the Dunn & Dunn VAK learning style is one of the most common. It divides people into three types of learners:
Visual learners learn best from observing. Ideal ways to reach this learner include demonstrations, videos, mind maps, visual learning depictions like infographics, and other things they can explore with their eyes. Often you can recognize a visual learner by verbal clues like, “I see what you’re saying.”
Kinesthetic learners are all about movement and hands-on learning. These learners often exhibit large hand gestures and are very engaged from a visual sense. They’ll use phrases like, “That doesn’t feel right” to describe something that’s not working for them.
Events have largely moved towards embracing the kinesthetic learner. This is partly because movement and hands-on learning are seen as more engaging, but if you have more visual and auditory learners, hands-on labs may not appeal to them as much as more traditional, passive types of learning.
According to the VAK idea, you need to know what types of learners you have in attendance. You can do so by taking this quiz.
But how do you tailor a presentation to all types of learners? And how do you show auditory learners visual concepts like flower design for instance or topography? Do these learning styles hold water? This video explains the argument some cognitive psychiatrists have against them.
So if these theories are just theories without proven data, how do you personalize event learning?
Tips for Personalizing Event Learning to your Audience
Let’s leave the VAK style behind since it would become a nightmare for presenters. You’d have to have 3 sections of every presentation or 3 different versions of every presentation to appeal to those types of learners. For those who are astute enough to recognize how they learn best, you would expect an auditory learner would shy away from a hands-on learning lab, for instance. But we know that wouldn’t be the case. Instead, you can incorporate some of the following aspects into your event learning:
- Several months before your event, post content on a number of big topics in your industry. Note responses, comments, and shares. What’s resonating with your audience and what do they strongly disagree on? Use this to shape your offerings.
- Offer personalized topics of interest to your audience.
- Select the modality or medium that best fits the lesson being as engaging as possible.
- Create mini-learning sessions within the larger one where attendees can do personalized deeper dives into content.
- Instead of post-event surveys, survey your members ahead of time to find out their interests and what they want to learn.
- Pair up registrants in learning teams or tables based on their learning objectives or experiences (either shared or varied).
- Continue learning prospects after the event in an online community.
- Tie together learning experiences under a broader theme. Ensure tracks have cohesion and speakers are familiar with what others are presenting.
- Create a verbal duel between speakers of differing opinions in an informal setting.
- Open up sessions so that attendees feel comfortable walking in and out of them.
- Require presenters to schedule tweets during their session of key points so that attendees in other sessions can gain the benefit of learning from all sessions.
- Offer videos and notes/SlideShares from all sessions so that attendees can benefit from sessions they didn’t attend.
- Publish all speakers’ social media profiles before the conference so that attendees can begin following them and learning outside of your conference. This also serves to get them excited about the impending event.
- When the agenda is published and speakers are finalized, ask all presenters to share their efficiency tools or best practices on a particular site. This can be done easily through the speaker application. It makes for good content to help attendees get to know your speakers better and learn ahead of time so that they can ask more poignant questions in the sessions.
- Require speakers talk to audience members in more than just the last 10 minutes of a session. Recruit speakers who are willing to let the audience shape their presentation in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style by exploring topics that interest them within the speaker’s wheelhouse. For instance, if the presentation is about personal branding the speaker could find out at the beginning of the session whether more people were interested in personal branding as it applies to a role they currently hold or do they want to use personal branding to transition into another type of job? The speaker could then talk to what interests them most rather than giving a predetermined presentation.
While cognitive psychologists may still be arguing the different types of learners out there and how to reach them, what remains undisputed is the need to personalize and tailor your event learning to your audience. With these 15 suggestions, you’re well on your way.