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How to Use “Brain Rules” to Make Your Next Event More Impactful

June 7, 2012

Pictured: John Medina at 2012 PCMA Convening Leaders. Photo courtesy of MEETINGSNET.

Introduction

At PCMA Convening Leaders 2012 in San Diego (in January), John Medina gave the opening keynote. Medina is the author of “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School,” published by Pear Press in 2008.

I was unable to attend the Medina’s keynote, but judging by the chatter afterwards (both online and in the convention center), his talk was well received. I spoke to a few attendees who mentioned direct ties between “Brain Rules” and event planning. When I finally got around to reading the book, I had this “event angle” in mind.

Corporate Events

Attendees of corporate events are pre-disposed to interact with one another. You may know 20-60%+ of the attendees — and, even if you’ve never met someone before, you’re tied by the common bond of being part of the same company.

Monitor and Track your Corporate Learners

Rule #3 is called “Wiring” and can be summarized by the line “Every brain is wired differently.” Because everyone processes information (and learns) at different rates, Medina suggests smaller class sizes in schools. Why? So “the teacher can better keep track of where everybody is.”

Corporate training events should avoid the 3-hour PowerPoint presentations. Medina’s Rule #4 (“Attention”) says that “audiences check out after 10 minutes.” If you have a dry, 3-hour PowerPoint, chances are 2 hours and 50 minutes are wasted. Medina recommends that lectures be broken up into 10 minute segments.

To that I’d add that interactive technology be utilized to create a “presenter’s dashboard.” Throughout the session, short questions would be transmitted to all attendees via handheld devices. The question could be survey oriented (e.g. “Are you following the subject matter?”) or could “test” attendees to validate whether they’re following effectively.

All responses would be anonymous and presenters would be trained to effectively adapt and adjust their session based on the regularly-collected feedback. For instance, this method may identify segments that need to be slowed down, repeated or presented in more detail.

Repetition for Key Themes and Information

Rule #6 covers Long Term Memory and includes this nugget: “the way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals.” To maximize learning at corporate events, then, consider the following:

  1. Schedule “recap sessions.” Featuring the original presenter, who provides a 5 minute summary of the key points from the original session. The remainder is a Q&A concerning the topic of the session.
  2. Reinforce during meals and drinks. In the common areas where food and drink are served, utilize large display monitors with rotating slide shows – the individual slides reiterate key points covered during the day’s sessions.
  3. Follow-on events. Schedule company-wide webcasts a few days (or a week) after the main event to reinforce key points covered.

In addition to repetition, Rule #4 (“Attention”) notes that “the brain needs a break.” This rule notes that a common flaw of instruction is “relating too much information, with not enough time devoted to connecting the dots.”

So here’s my own rule: each hour is divided into 50 minutes of instruction and 10 minutes of break. During these breaks, snacks are served and attendees are invited to connect the dots on whiteboards.

Gamify Your Corporate Event

Gamification of events has been widely discussed; however, a particular Brain Rule tells me how gamification can make a significant impact. In Rule #5 on Short-Term Memory, Medina notes, “The more elaborately we encode information at the moment of learning, the stronger the memory.”

How do we apply this rule? Create collaboration games in which you divide attendees up into teams. Teams are challenged to solve a problem. The act of solving the problem needs to involve elaborate steps (or considerations). And the end goal of learning is facilitated by the game itself (i.e. solving the challenge).

The result? Learning that results in stronger retention and recall (i.e. it made a larger impact) and a little team building thrown in for good measure.

All Types of Events

Exercise and Naps

You should incorporate exercise and naps into your event. Seems a bit crazy, right? Well, Rule #1 is “Exercise” and Medina notes that our evolutionary bodies are wired to walk 12 miles per day. In addition, he notes that exercise “stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.”

The need to nap is covered in Rule #7 (“Sleep”) and notes that a NASA study “showed that a 26-minute nap improved a pilot’s performance by more than 34 percent.”  While Medina notes that this need to nap is independent of eating a large meal, I recall far too many events during which I nodded off in the session immediately following lunch.

My idea: reserve the hour immediately following lunch for the following options:

  1. A visit to the napping room (perhaps a sponsored napping room at a trade show or conference).
  2. Organized yoga sessions.
  3. Guided walks around the venue (e.g. a historical perspective on the city).
  4. Group discussion walks (i.e. a brisk walk with stops for the group to discuss topics related to the event).
  5. Free time – your chance to catch up on email, return voicemail, etc.

Connect with Attendees Emotionally

In Rule #4 (“Attention”), Medina writes that “emotionally arousing events tend to be better remembered than neutral events.” Reading this reminded me of the famous Maya Angelou quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

But how do you connect with your attendees’ emotions? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. The music you select and play (and, when it’s played).
  2. The quality of the presenters you feature (how will they make your attendees feel?).
  3. Considering the five senses for all touch points (e.g. sight, sound, touch, taste and even smell/aroma).
  4. The element of surprise (in a good way).
  5. The quality of your after-event events.
  6. The friendliness and helpfulness of your event staff.
  7. Over-deliver on attendees’ expectations.
  8. Be unique and differentiated.
  9. Inspire them to go back to the office and act upon something they learned.
  10. Find and provide things that attendees can’t get anywhere else.

Conclusion

Reading “Brain Rules” convinced me that if we can better understand how the brain works, we can effect change (for the better). To invite John Medina to speak at their annual conference, the event planners at PCMA must have drawn the connection between “Brain Rules” and impactful events. Use the Comments area below to share your thoughts on how events can me more impactful. Thanks!

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

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5 Ways Face-to-Face Events Are Like Family Reunions

January 13, 2012

Introduction

This week, I attended my fourth Virtual Edge Summit and my second PCMA Convening Leaders. The two events were collocated with one another at the San Diego Convention Center. As I made my way throughout the event, I kept noticing the same thing: people embracing one another in enthusiastic hugs.

I noticed the hugs just about everywhere: in the hallways, on the elevators, on line for coffee and in the session areas. I made the realization that members of an industry comprise a family – and with our busy schedules these days, the “family” may see each other a few times per year. Or perhaps, a few times every five years!

Let’s consider how face-to-face events are like family reunions.

1) Scheduled time together.

At a family reunion, there’s the luncheon, picnic or perhaps a tea party at grandma’s house. There’s the obligatory group photo. Face-to-face events are largely defined by their scheduled activities: sessions, demonstrations, meals, classroom learning and evening networking events.

2) Unscheduled time spent in smaller groups.

A face-to-face event is wonderful at creating serendipity and somewhat random encounters: running into an old colleague while walking from one session to the next; meeting a like-minded professional on the food line; bumping into your former boss on the elevator.

While an event’s scheduled activities are valuable, a lot of enjoyment comes from the meetings and interactions we have during the unscheduled activities, which we tend to experience in smaller groups. Family reunions are similar. The one-on-one time with a cousin or aunt are great, as you reminisce about the “good old days.”

3) Nothing’s the same as face-to-face.

Families have Skype, Facebook and email to stay in touch. Industries have blogs, online communities, Twitter and Google+. All of these tools are very effective for keeping up with one another and staying in touch.

But nothing can reproduce the experiences, dynamics and value of meeting face-to-face. I’ve developed relationships with others online, but it’s not until I spend time with them face-to-face that I truly feel like I “know” them. Industries, like families, need to convene face-to-face from time to time.

4) You realize how quickly the kids grow up.

Kids grow up way too quickly. Go two years without seeing a young niece, nephew or cousin and you may not even recognize them. With business moving as quickly as ever, our friends and colleagues may get promoted or switch jobs without us knowing (although LinkedIn does a great job about letting us know!). It’s at events that we can see how the kids (and colleagues!) are growing.

5) It’s hard to say goodbye.

It’s hard to say goodbye at the end of a family reunion. After spending 2-3+ intense days at a face-to-face event, it’s equally tough to say bye. You’ve spent hours speaking, learning, (hugging) and socializing with a close-knit group of individuals. When it’s time for everyone to head to the airport, you wish that the event lasted one more day.

Conclusion

I had a great week with “family” in San Diego. For some, it’s my hope that I’ll see them again during 2012. For others, I may have to wait for 12 months. Perhaps I’ll combine the face-to-face event with a family reunion – Convening Leaders 2013 takes place in Orlando.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


10 Lead Generation Tips for Digital Events

January 12, 2012

Introduction

At Virtual Edge Summit / PCMA Convening Leaders in San Diego, I gave a Learning Lounge talk titled “Digital Events: 10 Tips for Generating Leads for Your Exhibitors.”

Ten Lead Generation Tips

My ten tips are:

  1. Content Marketing (You).
  2. Content Marketing (Your Exhibitors).
  3. Social Media (You).
  4. Social Media (Your Exhibitors).
  5. Leverage Speakers for promotion.
  6. Utilize social sharing buttons.
  7. Start promoting early.
  8. Leverage your partners.
  9. Issue a press release.
  10. Supplement with paid media.

The Presentation

Here are the slides from my presentation.


Pondering The Future With PCMA, VEI and … Event Camp?

October 16, 2011

Note: The thoughts expressed in this post are my own.

Introduction

Recently, the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) announced that it received a strategic investment from the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Michelle Bruno, in her Fork In the Road blog, provided some great insights on this partnership, in a posting titled “Why PCMA’s Investment in the Virtual Edge Institute Means More than Just Cash.”

Michelle commended PCMA for endorsing an open source model “to unlock the innovation around virtual and hybrid event technology.” I think PCMA should create a trifecta by making a strategic investment in Event Camp (EC). Commenting on this point via Twitter, Michelle tweeted, “Agree. Event Camp Europe gave me the idea about open source innovation in event context.”

Let’s dive into the potential benefits.

Funding

Event Camp has achieved great things to date. They’ve used their own hybrid events (“Event Camps”) to experiment and innovate on meeting and event planning. They’ve reached these heights primarily from the passion of their volunteer organizers and secondarily from supporting sponsors.

And while I believe that innovation can result from budgetary constraints, imagine the possibilities with an investment from an organization such as PCMA. I believe that a stronger financial foothold will create ever more innovative and engaging Event Camps.

Colocation

Event Camp meetings would have a lot to gain by colocating with PCMA gatherings, in the same way that Virtual Edge Summit benefited from its colocation with PCMA Convening Leaders.

In the future, this trifecta could kick off the calendar year with colocation of three events (in one): PCMA Convening Leaders, Virtual Edge Summit and Event Camp National Conference. Given that several PCMA members are key contributors to Event Camp, colocation makes all the more sense.

In addition, there are additional PCMA events that may stand to benefit from VEI and EC involvement, such as the mid-year PCMA Education Conference.

Feeder Organization

Talk about synergy. Event Camp can spin out innovation via experimentation. The innovation fostered is then fleshed out, refined and documented. In this way, Event Camp becomes a feeder organization into Virtual Edge Institute’s certification programs and PCMA’s educational programs.

Open Source Innovation

Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt) did a great interview with Nick Balestra (@nickbalestra) about Event Camp Europe titled, “Using Open Source to Remix Your Event.” According to Balestra, “creating events can be somehow similar, so taking an open-source approach while thinking about your events can lead to  smarter ways to create them.”

As Michelle Bruno stated in her piece, PCMA and VEI are supporting an open source model for the benefit of the entire events community. Event Camp, with their model built around “innovation from experimentation” would be a perfect fit for this open source event model to further grow and flourish.

Conclusion

I have a dream to one day visit every major league baseball park in the U.S. and Canada. On the meetings and events side, perhaps I’ll one day be able to attend PCMA Convening Leaders, Virtual Edge Summit and Event Camp in one fell swoop. As for the MLB parks, that’ll have to wait till retirement.

Related Posts

  1. My Thoughts: Virtual Edge Institute’s Digital Event Strategist Certification

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Take a Survey on The Use of Virtual Technologies In The Workplace

May 12, 2011


Take the survey: http://bit.ly/k0DAoR

Introduction

Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) has announced a comprehensive survey to understand the work-related uses of virtual technologies and digital environments. The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and UBM Studios have teamed up with VEI to conduct and analyze the data for the study.

Survey Details – And a Prize

This survey is dedicated to work-related use of virtual technologies like:

  1. Virtual event, meeting, and virtual learning technologies as well as video streaming, and webcasting
  2. Virtual environments (2D and 3D) such as virtual events, virtual trade shows, conferences, and perpetual (365 days per year) business environments.

According to Michael Doyle, Executive Director of Virtual Edge Institute (VEI), “VEI is giving away two iPads, as well as access to the survey results and our library of on-demand Virtual Edge Summit sessions to ensure strong participation.”

Take the survey: http://bit.ly/k0DAoR

Video: Example of Virtual Environments

The following video from VEI shows examples of the virtual environments covered in their survey.


Virtual Edge Summit 2011

October 20, 2010

Heading into its third year, Virtual Edge Summit, the annual hybrid event covering “digital solutions for events, meetings, learning & community,” is moving up in the world.

Earlier this year, PCMA and Virtual Edge announced that the Virtual Edge Summit would be co-located with PCMA’s 2011 annual meeting in Las Vegas.

As in past years, Virtual Edge Summit will be a hybrid event, featuring both on-site and virtual components.

Make it a 2011 New Year’s Resolution and attend this valuable event.  You’ll hear from the industry’s experts and thought leaders and be able to network with key people in the industry.

Readers of this blog are welcome to a special discount, which is available at this link:

http://virtualedgesummit.com/registration_reader/

By registering from this page, you’ll receive a $120 discount off the $595 registration fee for in-person and $90 off the $195 for virtual.

“Over the past 18 months, virtual events have gained momentum, moving from a nice-to-have to an integral part of an organization’s online strategy,” said Michael Doyle, executive editor of Virtual Edge Institute.

“Virtual Edge Summit is the only conference that will bring together thought leaders from Cisco, IBM, Hilton Hotels and more to discuss business strategies and best practices for taking your business virtual.”

Related Links

  1. ROI Case Study: Virtual Edge Institute’s Hybrid Event
  2. My observations from Virtual Edge Summit: 2010 Trend Watch: Virtual Events

ROI Case Study: Virtual Edge Institute’s Hybrid Event

July 28, 2010

Introduction

Virtual events have enjoyed phenomenal growth in demand and visibility.  Notable brands and associations have hopped aboard the virtual bandwagon, delivering innovative experiences and impactful results.  The first phase of the virtual event industry is what I call the “early dating period”.  As the industry evolves and matures, we are moving from early dating to an era of “meet the parents”.

That is, a phase in which we receive increased visibility and a challenge to prove and justify ourselves.  The parents, in our case, are the company executives who fund our virtual event campaigns (e.g. our bosses, our CFO, CMO, CEO, etc.).  To date, virtual events used for lead generation have been the most effective at demonstrating ROI.

Why? Because lead generation has existing methodologies and metrics on ROI (e.g. “cost per lead”, “cost per inquiry”, “cost per sales engagement”, etc.).  So a virtual trade show investment could simply “plug into” a corporation’s existing ROI methodology.  For other event types, however, ROI, impact and effectiveness have not been explicitly measured to date.

To evolve our industry, it’s crucial that event planners, platform vendors and ROI experts work together to define and implement methodologies to generate quantitative results for our virtual and hybrid event investments.

Michael Doyle of the Virtual Edge Institute (@virtualedge) is a firm believer in event ROI measurement.  The Virtual Edge Institute is “an international organization dedicated to advancing the development and adoption of virtual event and meeting technology and best practices for collaboration and marketing”.  Doyle hosts the Virtual Edge Summit, an annual hybrid event that brings together virtual event practitioners, experts and solutions providers.

For the 2010 Virtual Edge Summit in Santa Clara, CA, Doyle partnered with ROI of Engagement to measure the impact and effectiveness of the event.  The summit was a hybrid event, with on-site and virtual components running simultaneously.  As such, Doyle sought to study and measure feedback from each attendee group.

The study was based on ROI Methodology™, which ROI of Engagement describes as “a step-by-step approach to collecting data, summarizing and processing data, isolating the effects of programs, converting data to monetary value and calculating ROI”.  The methodology studies results along the following five levels:

  1. Level One: Reaction and Satisfaction
  2. Level Two: Learning and Understanding
  3. Level Three: Application
  4. Level Four: Impact
  5. Level Five: ROI

Virtual Edge Summit 2010 measured the first two levels.  The results of the study have been published here:

http://www.virtualedge.org/forum/topics/measuring-and-maximizing-the

On this page, you can download the White Paper, “Measuring and Maximizing the Impact of a Hybrid Event“.

Virtual Edge Summit 2011 is scheduled for January 2011 in Las Vegas and will be co-located with PCMA.  Doyle plans to apply valuable feedback from the 2010 ROI study to improve the experience for the 2011 event.

Doyle is focusing on consolidating the virtual component on a single platform (in 2010, there were several virtual platforms to choose from) and increasing networking opportunities for both on-site and virtual attendees.

In addition, the 2011 event will embark upon another ROI study – this time, the study will take advantage of all five levels in the ROI Methodology™.

Conclusion

It’s a great time to be in the events industry.  Never before has there been so many technology tools at your disposal (e.g. virtual event platforms and much more).  For continued growth in virtual and hybrid events, the industry will need thorough and proven ROI methodologies to demonstrate and quantify ROI, impact and effectiveness.  Event planners: look to the initiative from Virtual Edge Institute and ROI of Engagement and consider how similar methodologies apply to your next event.

international organization dedicated to advancing the development and adoption of virtual event and meeting technology and best practices for collaboration and marketing

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