What If Attendees Remember Nothing From Your Event?


Yes, what if they remember nothing from your event?

“Meetings are often so overloaded with material that learning may be hurt more than it’s enhanced,” says Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster, No More Boring Meetings. (Read her article for seven ways to boost learning.)

What’s worse than remembering nothing from the event? If attendees learned something and can’t apply it. Then they can’t improve their job performance.

Learning Scrap Or Learning Gold?

Learning comes before remembering. Remembering comes before application. Customized contextual application comes before job improvements.

No learning. No job improvements.

No retention of learning. No job improvements.

No ability to customize the learning to their context. No job improvement.

Ultimately, if there are no job improvements, then you, your company and the conference organizers have just experienced learning scrap. You’ve wasted precious resources—money, time, energy—without any tangible benefits to your career, your job and your company’s improvement.

It Can And Does Get Worse

But wait, it gets worse!

Even worse is when:

  • Attendees learned something critical that will make them standout from the pack;
  • Remember it at the right time on the job;
  • And apply it exactly as the expert stated with no deviations.
  • Only to discover that they failed miserably at implementation!

Why Many Fail At Applying New Learnings From Your Event

So why do so many meeting participants fail at applying their new learnings?

Here are a couple of reasons audiences fail at implementation according to Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel, the authors of Make It Stick: The Science Of Successful Learning.

1. The Conference Copycat Critter: Quick Just Give Me The Highpoints So I Can Copy Them!

Often meeting participants just want the victorious insider’s information. They want the steps, the tips and the tricks to triumph.

And they even demand—and thus conference organizers provide—someone else’s path to success.

Why? Our brains will tell us, “Well, if someone else has already done this, just take their steps and use them.”

Our brains prefer not to think. We are misled by the belief if we can get someone steps to success; we’ve got the key to winning.

As the authors point out, copying someone steps to success leads us to imitation. Trying to implement someone else’s tips without fully understanding the issue underneath is a sure path to failure. Those copycat conference critters become victims of mimicry.

2. The Parroting Attendee: I’ve Got Your Sound Bite So I Can Win Now Too

You’ve taken great notes. You leave the conference session with the speaker’s sound bites. You can now parrot exactly what the speaker said. You learned it!

Unfortunately, this is when we become victims to our brain misleading us that we’ve learned something. We are so familiar with the words, that our brains trick us that we learned it. We misjudge familiarity with learning, understanding and wise application.

As the authors point out, we are really poor judges of when and if we’ve learned something.

So what you say? So, this again leads to failed implementation. When we get back to the office, we even spout the speaker’s words. Yet when we try to apply it, we can’t customize it to our context.

What can conference organizers do to curb mimicry and parroting that lead to failed implementation? What can we personally do to make sure our learning sticks?

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  1. Two things that come to mind are to note which pieces of what I just learned I can actually use to tackle my specific challenges (and how I may have to adjust to make them work for my circumstances); and teach what I just learned to someone else.

  2. Will never forget that one bit during a marking conference once when a speaker sneaked in a “Windows update starting in 9, 8, 7…” – everybody else cracked up but we did have a mini heart attack as the hosts.

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