How to enhance learning outcomes at meetings

As a meeting planner, your goal isn't just to sell registrations and sponsorships. If your meeting includes an education program, it's also to train and develop attendees.

Doing that can be harder than you think -- especially if all you offer are traditional keynotes and conventional breakout sessions, which often tire attendees instead of teaching them.

For that reason, Successful Meetings Senior Editor Leo Jakobson suggests a new approach to conference education. "The PowerPoint lecture has steadily been losing favor, and for good reason," he says. "Whereas before, we had a message to tell someone. Now we're realizing that for them to get the message, we need to get it to them in the way that they can consume it effectively."

Enter experiential learning. "A growing body of research points to the fact that people learn from experience far better than they do from lectures," continues Jakobson, who recommends infusing your meeting with education sessions in which attendees learn by "doing."

Just make sure that there's as much education as there is activity. "We don't necessarily learn from experience by itself but rather by reflecting on that experience," Preston Yarborough, faculty and senior project director for the Center for Creative Leadership, tells Jakobson. "It is absolutely vital to come back and discuss an experience in the classroom setting."