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Do You Allocate Enough Time For Interaction?

I recently read that 80% of learning is informal. This statistic was published in a fascinating article called “Learning Gets Social” in the August issue of Training & Development. While I am not smart enough to challenge the validity of this number, I am smart enough to ask this question:  If learning is informal AND face to face events are so important – do you think there is enough time being allocated to interaction in events?

Too often, I see agendas that are packed with speakers and barely any free time.  If you are serious about engaging attendees, then you need to consider setting aside time for interaction. Here are some questions that might want to ask yourself:


1. How Much Are Attendees Passively Listening vs Actively Contributing?

Not long ago, I came across a report by Crystal Interactive (Creating Internal Events that are Fit For Purpose) that surveyed UK corporate and internal events and found that 90% of the learning time is spent passively listening. While only 10% is spent participating in interactive activities.  I was blown away by the numbers and suggest that you read the report (see link above). The body of the report offers several suggestions for thinking through objectives, managing time and interaction in an internal corporate event.

2. What happens following the motivational keynote speech?

In the article “How Not to Use a Great Speaker”, Ed Bernacki describes a motivational keynote speech that missed its mark – because there was no time set aside for interaction and reflection with other attendees after the speech.  He suggests allocating 20-30 minutes for attendees to discuss the presentation’s key themes in small groups. This way you can get extra value from the investment in the speaker and allow attendees to build a stronger connection to the content and its message.

3. Will there be several people in the audience as knowledgeable as the speaker on the selected topic?

The line between the experts on the stage and the attendees in the audience is blurring. Attendees have access to much more research and knowledge than in the past. In some topic areas, new case studies and insights are emerging everyday. If the topic fits this profile make sure you allocate time to get the perspective of other knowledgeable participants.

4. Sooo…how much time should you allocate to interaction?

Crystal Interactive recommends that you allocate 30-50% of learning time to interactive activities. While a recent case study by Ron Springer of Espirit Productions showed that business results were achieved by increasing interaction from 26% to 58% and cutting PowerPoint Presentations in half from 50.6% of time to 24%.  (Read Case Study)

Bottom Line

You control how attendees spend their time at your events. If you want them to interact more, then consider allocating more time to interaction activities.

How much time are you allocating for interaction?

Photo Credit: SadJr

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. wow that is an eye opening series of stats.

    Yes, many presentations are characterized, appropriately so, as “passive listening.” But this does not have to be the case.

    audiences always assume that their role is to quietly listen even if bored . . . it takes some showmanship to get people to speak out in those forums, but can be done easily enough. if your speaker is not up to it in terms of emcee/showman skill, how about a team teaching approach?

    Something i commonly see in the concert event biz: underneath a cavalcade of new guest performers, there is a real fear to depart from traditional formats. I say, take a chance. The Hawthorne Effect is on your side! There are presenters out there who can do more for you than the usual. I was going to say “just ask” but remember, speakers are dying for your business and are going to give you what they think you want. If we sense you have fear of departing from tradition, we will act accordingly. even the best speakers do not control the schedule. you do. so don’t be afraid to allow time for, and ask for, more than the usual. It’s there if you want it.

    — justin locke

    ps personally, i think powerpoint presentations should be cut to zero 🙂

    November 7, 2009

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