Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 18 2014

How Education Is Evolving — And What It Means For Your Meeting

By David McMillin


Attendees come to meetings for two reasons: education and networking.

I’ve heard this phrase time and time again over the past few years from planners and suppliers alike. While many attendees will take home additional benefits from meetings, these two pieces of the experience puzzle are indeed the primary drivers for paying registration fees. As meeting professionals work to fulfill the promise of delivering these two ingredients, it’s important to recognize that the recipe for one of them is undergoing a dramatic transformation.

Education is no longer confined to the classroom-student-teacher formula. At the CEIR Predict Conference in Chicago on September 11, meeting professionals and trade show organizers discussed the future of learning and what the changes will bring for the industry. Marina Gorbis, Executive Director, Institute for the Future, highlighted that people don’t have to come to meetings to learn anymore. In today’s digitally-driven world, they have the ability to learn anywhere and anytime.

SEE ALSO: How Online Learning Is Changing The Face Of Face-To-Face

“Learning is becoming a continuous experience rather than an episodic experience,” Gorbis said as she highlighted the convenience of research at our fingertips via devices with high-speed Internet access.

“Every moment of our lives can become a learning moment,” Gorbis added.

This shift isn’t simply about the ability to watch video or use a search engine to find an answer.

“This is about taking learning out into the real world,” Gorbis said.

For example, take Leafsnap, a free mobile app where users can take a photo of a leaf and visual recognition software instantly identifies the species. More interested in people and places than nature? Check out HyperCities, which lets users go back in time to explore the historical significance of buildings and places with Google Maps and Google Earth.

SEE ALSO: 5 Tech Transformations That Are Changing Education

What Does The New Definition Of Education Mean For Your Meeting?

While information about leaves or skyscrapers may not directly tie to the education at your meeting or conference, Gorbis’ keynote speech carries some serious weight for everyone involved in adult learning. Knowledge is more accessible than ever before. Armed with smartphones and tablets, every audience can get the information and insights they need faster and cheaper.

The insights aren’t just from Wikipedia, either. In her book “The Nature of the Future,” Gorbis mentions Expert Insight, an online outlet that allows users to pay for personal one-on-one Skype-type video chat sessions with professors from acclaimed institutions such as Harvard and University of Chicago.

“Not only do we have access to question-and-answer platforms that help us learn; increasingly we also have access to world-class experts who can provide personalized advice and mentorship,” Gorbis writes.

All of this puts a great deal of pressure on every meeting professional to better articulate their value propositions. Why should attendees take four days away from their work duties and families to travel to a meeting? What will they learn in educational sessions that isn’t available online? How will the experience facilitate a high-level discussion that can’t happen behind a screen?

The Continued Advantage Meeting Professionals Must Leverage

Despite this increased pressure, the face-to-face industry still possesses the other key motivator for registration: the ability to interact with people.

“Learning is about participating in a conversation, and kids (and adults) want to participate in conversations with those who matter to them,” Gorbis writes.

Unfortunately, many educational environments ignore this truth.

“In too many classroom settings, the focus on academics misses this social aspect of learning,” Gorbis writes.

How have you made your meeting environment more interactive? Do you have any suggestions on making learning more social? Go to Catalyst to share your advice with your peers.

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