Learning By Experience

Recently, Dan Yaman, President and CEO of Live Spark, was quoted in MPI magazine; highlighting how events must be interactive to be effective.

Learning By Experience 
by Wendy Helfenbaum | Feb 04, 2015

“Studies point out that the emotion does not have to be from the material that’s being presented, but it has to be generated in some way,” he says. “Being able to create a level of emotion through increased engagement and interaction is the biggest trend we’re seeing among our clients: How do you keep the audience at a peak state and create a fun experience?”

Ditch the Data Dump and Keep Things Simple

Too many conference sessions include overwhelming amounts of complex content, often worsened by presenters misusing PowerPoint.

“PowerPoint [presentations] should be clear so as to enhance what the presenters are talking about—anything else will create an overload situation, where the brain shuts down,” Yaman says. “Get the information honed down to what is absolutely critical. Make that information really meaningful and ask, ‘What do I want the audience to do after they leave?’ Make sure everything’s aligned to achieve those outcomes.”

People retain information more effectively when presenters combine art, science, psychology and fun—but preparing groups is crucial.

“At events, everyone focuses on the presentation phase, without fully preparing the audience,” Yaman explains. “We’ll spend a half-hour before bringing out the first presenter—even if he’s the CEO—to get the audience totally set up for success.”

By doing this, the audience is more likely to receive and retain the information, he says.

“Evoke a need for the material that’s being delivered by creating curiosity and a strong buy-in from the audience so they’ll really focus—put the responsibilities for the takeaways on the audience,” Yaman advises. “We say, ‘This could be the most powerful two days of this event. Are you willing to step up and put it all in?’”

Keep the Energy Alive
Next, control the room and the audience’s state of mind to keep attendees engaged by switching things up.

“If they go vacant, the client’s message is gone,” Yaman warns. “At four- or five-minute intervals, present the same information in a different manner: Tell a story, show a video, do a case study; just keep it alive.”

One way he accomplishes this is by occupying the moments between presenters with relevant, on-screen questions and arming the audience with remote-response keypads.

“It’s a shot of adrenaline that helps re-engage and re-energize the room for the next presenter,” Yaman says.

Live Spark also threads gaming elements throughout the entire event—as opposed to scheduling a single team-building challenge for one day—which fosters emotion while building upon education with quizzes pulled from presentations.

Yaman says. “We want people to be sitting at the edge of their seats, having a good time,” Yaman says.

He believes AniMates—computer-animated characters that show up onscreen throughout the event to interact in real time with people onstage—can greatly increase content retention and comprehension.

“It’s not the sophistication of the equipment—we could do the same level of engagement with a sock puppet,” Yaman says. “If you know how to create a rapport with the presenters and, more importantly, with your audience, these characters can break down complex issues into simple, relevant chunks that everyone will understand.”

Live Spark recently introduced Eddie the Eagle as a mascot for a heavy equipment company in South Dakota. Eddie voiced the audience’s concerns through live interactions with presenters while keeping the audience engaged.

“We’ve done studies for Gartner and found that the biggest indicator of whether someone thought something was successful was how much interaction they had with the other people in the audience,” he says. “A lot of learning happens in the moments when presenters and participants can interact with each other. Create different tracks so that people can go after what they think they need.”

Read the rest of the article "Learning by Experience" on MPI's website
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