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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

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is the Managing Director of Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC. He wakes up every morning to save the world from stuffing attendees in chairs for hours on end at events. Oh, and he has small children who usually want some breakfast.