In my last post, I discussed how to blend the best of education and networking by approaching your audience as a community of practice. A community of practice is essentially a group of people who share a common interest or purpose, which I believe describes almost any group of meeting attendees. There are unique benefits to capturing the knowledge that your audience already brings to the room, which I discussed in that post. I also discussed basic logistical parameters that make an environment conducive to forming communities.
The next step is to facilitate the learning that can be generated within these groups. You're probably already familiar with some forms of community-driven learning: brainstorming sessions, focus groups, brown-bag lunches and post-convention wrap-up meetings are just a few examples. But how can you bring these shared learning experiences to a broader level, and incorporate them into your meetings? How do you start capturing the tremendous length and breadth of experiences that your attendees bring to one place when they convene?
The answer is that there are many different ways, depending on the personality of your group and the issues facing them at a given time. A tech-savvy group might thrive by using social media elements, whereas a more targeted discussion group would do well with interactive facilitation. It's important to know your group, but it's also worthwhile to take some risks, away from what you've always done. Here are a few methods to consider:
Open Space is for convening a group around a specific question or task, and then giving them the responsibility to create both the agenda and the experience. A facilitator identifies the key question, explains the process, and then steps back and lets the energy of the group take over. While it requires more time than a typical educational session -- one-half to two full days work best -- it can also direct tremendous passion and knowledge toward a particular goal. Try using this method when you have a particular problem to solve or a plan to create. You can learn more about Open Space Technology here.
Graphic recording captures the discussion of a group and translates it into a visual image, much like you might see in an infographic. By presenting information in the form of images, participants are able to use their visual-learning skills to organize concepts and ideas, extract meaning and reinforce messages. Creating a visual memory also increases information retention. Try using this when your conversation will be complex and multifaceted, so attendees literally can see the connections between elements. Search YouTube for some great examples of graphic recording in practice, or learn more here.
Social reporting uses social media to capture the moments of an event, but also to stimulate online conversations similar to those that might occur interactively in the room. A dedicated social reporter, a designated group of participants or all participants can engage or record in whatever way they choose. The objective is to share text, photos and/or videos that will encourage contributions from those not able to attend the meeting in person. The benefit for people in the room is the contribution from the knowledge base that is not able to attend in person. Learn more here.
The key to using all of these meeting elements is to think beyond the session room and the one-way instructional learning that is all too common. Your attendees can be your own best resource for creating more exciting educational experiences.
I'd love for you to share your own experiences, whether with creating an interactive learning environment or participating in one. Please comment below or email me at LizontheBiz@gmail.com.