Over the last 14-plus months, Learning professionals, along with the rest of the world, were forced to adapt and pivot quickly and continuously as the pandemic environment evolved. For many of us, this meant rapid transition from inperson training to the design and delivery of a variety of virtual training options—with varying levels of success—so we could continue to meet the educational needs of our audiences.
Now, as COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, there is a glimmer of hope that live, in-person events might return to our training portfolios. But instead of abandoning our newly developed virtual models, we should seek to integrate virtual delivery and in-person events—perhaps as a parallel option or in a blended approach—which will strengthen what we offer to our learners. What is essential is the active engagement of participants in their own learning—whatever the delivery mode.
With that in mind, I offer insight into an “all teach, all learn” approach to an intensive in-person leadership event that resulted in 90 percent of participants reporting they successfully effected positive change as a result of applying their new learning to the workplace and earned a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 94.
We often hear that the value of in-person training goes beyond the content being delivered and focuses on the importance of peer networking and shared experiences of like-minded individuals. We have found this to be even more important when engaging learners in leadership topics such as communicating effectively, leading change, building teams, or being an impactful leader. In short, leadership skills are not simply defined in a textbook and mastered by taking a test—true mastery often depends on the individual and their collective experiences.
For our training design, we developed a two-day learning event that included just three-and-a-half hours of actual content delivery. The rest of the design focused on how to tap into the expertise in the room, networking with peers, and shared successes. The event was designed as an “all teach, all learn environment,” creating intense peer engagement and discussion as its focal point.
The intent of the design was to create a high-energy, highly engaging environment by developing a fast-moving agenda and limiting time seated in one place or group. We sought to leverage our experts differently—rather than delivering information in a lecture format, they raised questions, challenged ideas, and motivated learners to apply their own knowledge and insights.
Key components of the design included:
- Short keynote presentations in the morning set the stage for the energy level and core content for the day, followed by three “lightning-round” 15-minute thought-sparking presentations in the afternoon. Following each session, participants self-selected one of three reaction groups that were designed to dive deeper into presentation content. All peer discussion sessions were guided by a set of provocative questions based on the content of the keynote/lightning round and included a “map” to capture key points of the discussion. These breakout discussions repeated a second time with the same three reaction topics, allowing participants to engage in two of the three peer discussions. Reaction maps were repurposed for extended learning after the event.
- A graphic facilitator mapped the keynote and lightning-round presentations in real time to increase memory recall by using visual cues.
- Foam core pop-up engagement walls were spread throughout the common areas of the venue. These visuals allowed participants to use “sticky notes” to engage with each other, provide feedback, and suggest additional areas to investigate.
- Participants volunteered to receive text message “prompts” during “off” times of the event to enhance recall and reflection.
To foster learning retention, we coupled the live event with 12 weeks of extended learning, which included an Adobe Spark page that featured weekly messages from the faculty, resources compiled from the live event, new supporting resources, and a call to action to implement one thing each week.
In a post-event evaluation, 100 percent of participants said they intended to apply their new learning to the workplace and remain in direct contact with their network of peers. In a 30-day, post-event impact survey, more than 90 percent of respondents stated they successfully effected positive change as a result of applying their new learning to the workplace.
JUICE IT UP
This year continues to be an unknown—we still don’t know when in-person events will regain momentum. Could we offer the “all teach, all learn” level of intimacy and engagement in a virtual setting? Maybe. Dynamic lightning rounds and peer reaction sessions—fully engaged in problem solving and discussion—seem to be a transferrable formula for creating that live-event energy. Other elements, such as pop-up walls or graphic facilitation, require us to be creative in our approach, but that’s precisely what spurs innovation.
By exploring new technologies and engagement techniques, perhaps we can create an “all teach, all learn” environment that replicates the intangibles of the in-person event—the feelings and emotions, the connections and excitement, the “juice” we get when engaging with our peers. Now’s the time to challenge your training norms and push those boundaries!