As conference program designers, we know it is of vital importance for delegates to be able to harness and use the information shared at conferences in order to ensure the event offers value and drives a measurable outcome.

Over the years there has been plenty of research and discussion into the best ways to learn, how we learn and what we can do to improve methods of knowledge sharing. I believe a well designed program includes careful consideration of the means of communicating at a conference so that there is content for all of the different kinds of people, who learn in different ways.

Creating an overarching plan that delves deeper into the topic choice without losing the attention of the audience is a unique challenge in itself. But how do you do this?

You need to create an experience that blends learning styles and enhances the delegates senses.

There are some key ‘learning’ facts that we need to remember when designing a conference program:

  1. Learning is not a product, but a process.
  2. Learning is not something to merely be heard, but actioned.
  3. Learning makes a change in our brains. When we learn, there is an active chemical and biological reaction within our minds.

Different learning styles

Now, with this in mind it is important to remember we are all unique in our own way, even down to the manner in which we learn and take in new information. These different learning styles have been documented across the years so I have summarised seven of them below with notes as to how to identify them in your conference audience:

  • Auditory learners. They like to hear everything being explained to them and are more likely to choose subjects that are appealing to their learning style such as music and subjects that require them to have group discussions. This can mean that they can have a long attention span and can listen to speakers for an extended period of time without losing focus.
  • Visual learners. They like to see everything laid out before them in the form of diagrams or charts. They have photographicl-ike memories that are more likely to take in the information when it is presented to them in a visual manner, especially if it is in more of a creative manner – presented with vivid colours and interesting shapes. They will also be more likely to take notes and sit at the front of the conference room.
  • Verbal learners. A combination of the previous two types of learners. They enjoy writing when learning and also speak aloud which means they will want to write notes but also have discussions about the topic that they are learning, mixing and matching between their two preferred methods of learning to find the best form for them. This audience responds well to workshop or interactive sessions formats.
  • Logical learners. These delegates are more likely to notice when patterns emerge between lines of data or other information presented to them. They are happy to learn in any way – auditory or visual – as long as it is presented to them in a logical and practical way. They like to see how the method they are being taught will apply to their everyday lives. Case study sessions are really effective for logical learners.
  • Physical learners. Often referred to as ‘hands-on learners’ who like to get their hands on whatever materials they can that are relevant to the subject matter. They are more likely to be one of the more distracted of your audience, jittery and fidgety. However as this movement could be helping them take the information in, find the balance to keep them engaged and ensure some sessions involve physical movement or practical work.
  • Social learners. These are most conference delegates as they like to be surrounded by others.
  • Solitary learners. These learners don’t like to be surrounded by anyone and are more likely to tune in to virtual or online sessions – these are an easy audience to forget!

audience engagement

What is a mixed learning approach?

So, with all these different learners in our audience – how do we create one conference environment that caters to all of them? The best way is to adopt a mixed learning approach. This will ensure that you won’t lose your learners to distraction and will hopefully achieve the desired results.

When designing conference programs for clients I always explore the following two questions:

  1. Which mix of learning methods would best fit this event and audience?
  2. What proportion of time for each learning mode will have the most impact?

So long as your conference format includes time for listening, free time, doing, working and learning, you will be providing your learners with the optimum chance to achieve and learn to their highest capacity.

About Nectar Creative Communications

With our trademark flexibility + frameworksNectar Creative Communications can provide whatever you need; be it the logistical expertise of conferences and events or the marketing and content smarts to ensure audiences are engaged and measurable results are achieved.

Need more information? Contact the Nectar team today.

1300 878 815

Author: Peta Moore is the Managing Director of Nectar Creative Communications. Peta entered the industry in 1996 and has been unstoppable since. She created her own agency in 2008 to harness her experience as an in-house and contract Event Producer. She has built an event management team which is amazing.

What would Peta do if she wasn’t in events? She’d be a travel writer visiting exotic locations – all expenses paid of course!