How to Optimize Learning Environments

Author: Sherrif Karamat       

Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat, CAE

It’s not just what is being said at a business event that’s important — the space where that content is being delivered is just as critical. As business events strategists, you know this all too well, having fielded complaints from attendees about extremes in lighting (“It’s too bright/too dark in here”), temperature (“Can’t you make it warmer/cooler in this room?”) and sound (“I can’t hear the speaker” or “It’s too loud in here to have a conversation”).

We know the negative effects of a poor learning environment, but have we really delved into how to optimize learning environments? The March cover and CMP Series story explores just that, from a different perspective: What environmental elements spark joy and make attendees most receptive to interacting and collaborating with their peers?

The recently released results of the second phase of the “Future Meeting Space” research project, supported by the PCMA Foundation in partnership with the German Convention Bureau, shed more light on the attendee experience. The research determined that three key strategies — adding surprising or disruptive change elements, facilitating effective knowledge transfer, and catering to different attendee needs — create memorable events. In terms of environmental considerations, the “Future Meeting Space” research indicates that such disruptive elements as the use of lights and sound, or even having participants switch seats, can help foster knowledge transfer and retention.

That element of flexibility is also a key takeaway from the “Future of Meetings & Events” study, another project supported by the PCMA Foundation in collaboration with Marriott International. Thought leaders who participated in that study recommended that meeting venues focus on creating adaptive spaces to accommodate the different ways that people prefer to engage with each other, the content of the event, and the space itself.

Later this year, you’ll hear results from the Event Participation Behavior Research study, supported by the PCMA Foundation in partnership with Steelcase Event Experiences. This research takes a look at how people behave in open-space learning environments, using Convening Leaders 2019 as a case study. I’m confident that this research also will provide insights so we design settings that will help our events — and our participants — flourish.

Inspired to Act

“Creating memorable events” is the goal of most business events strategists. But what does that mean, exactly? How do we know what our participants do differently when they return to their workplaces as a direct result of having participated in our events? That question was answered for me shortly after our Convening Leaders program in Pittsburgh, when ABTS Vice President of Business Development Anthony Prusak emailed me.

He said that he was so inspired by our keynote speakers’ social activism messages that he launched a fundraising effort to provide meals for TSA agents at Cleveland’s airport who were working without pay during the recent government shutdown. Learn more about Anthony’s initiaitive.