January 16, 2020 by Sarah Michel
The bread and butter of conferences is concurrent education sessions. Keynote speakers and main-room experiences are pivotal for bringing the community together and sharing key messaging, but attendees expect—and deserve—transformational learning (change in ideas, attitudes and behaviors) from curated, relevant and problem-centric educational sessions.
Why do we often leave this most critical and valuable aspect of the conference experience in the hands of speakers who are not prepared to deliver an engaging learning experience?
Investing in speaker training for your subject matter experts, staffs and association members on 21st-century learning principles is no longer a nice-to-have. Slotting SMEs who deliver talking-head, one-way information-sharing sessions has no value for today’s attendee. They can get that all day long for free on the internet.
To elevate the educational value of your meeting, work with your speakers to move them from information-givers to sense-makers. Attendees need to wrestle with the content shared so they can make sense of it and discuss how they will apply it when they return to work. Providing speaker training on adult learning principles that leverages the intellectual equity in the room is essential for making your meeting content valuable.
Over the past year, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has invested in speaker training and coaching for many of their staff, subject matter experts (SME’s) who deliver presentations at their regional and annual conferences. The training focused on evidenced-based education practices and how to apply those to become facilitators of learning.
They started with one-hour webinars and once those proved successful, they moved to offering half-day live workshops and one-on-one coaching. When their recent conference session evaluation results came in, they knew their investment paid off. The staff who attended the workshops and did follow-up coaching with the instructor had the highest session evaluations across the board.
When an organization offers training to their SME’s to help them deliver a memorable learning experience, the speakers perceive it as an investment in their professional development. Everyone wants to deliver a session that is memorable and—more importantly— valued.
As you kick-off 2020, here are several strategies to implement a continuous speaker improvement plan that will elevate your conference education and develop your SME’s into great facilitators of learning.
Over the past ten years, the knowledge gap between the speaker and audience has shrunk significantly. The speakers are not always the smartest people in the room. Education that leverages the collective wisdom through peer learning, collaborative models and participatory techniques will elevate the overall value proposition of your conference.
How have you introduced evidence-based education practices to your speaker faculty? What ways can you train your speakers to leverage the intellectual capital in the room?
Filed Under: Speaker Coaching
Hallelujah, you’re speaking my language! But still I encounter many event participants who want the one-way information dump. “I came to hear the expert, not listen to random attendees talk and talk.” Or even, “I will get up and leave when they veer into group participation.” So I think the HOW is extremely important. You’ve given us some good tips to start with, thanks!
Thanks Anne for reading and sharing your feedback! You’re right, the “how” is very important!
Love the name change from “speaker” to “facilitator” – The very name implies more of a two-way interaction!
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