The Science of Educating Attendees & Event Apps

Posted by Matt Milloway on Mar 06, 2015

Educating meeting and conference attendees is not only a big reason why companies and organizations consider mobile apps, but represents a fundamental goal of most every event. From spreading company sales drive initiatives to experts discussing new advances in a given industry, conveying information to attendees and making it stick is an extremely important metric in gauging event success. What does science have to say about effectively educating attendees and how do mobile event apps play a role?

training and education event mobile appScience Behind Education & Training

A study published by the Association for Psychological Science (APS) entitled “The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice” sheds lights into what really works in terms of educating people in general and more specifically how to educate at meetings and conferences.

"Research on training clearly shows two things: (a) training works, and (b) the way training is designed, delivered, and implemented matters… decisions about what to train, how to train, and how to implement and evaluate training should be informed by the best information science has to offer."

detailed informationBefore the Conference

Pre-conference methods of scheduling session topics often entail surveying attendees, yet individuals don’t always know what is most effective and useful to learn. Understanding the difference between “need to know” and “need to access” helps event planners and organizers develop a better set of topic criteria before seeking out speakers and presenters. Consider this example: a new online resource is developed to better understand symptoms and other factors surrounding a specific disease. Is time best spent by a session presenter detailing the information contained within the resource—much of which will surely be forgotten due to people’s cognitive limitations—or simply teaching people how to most effectively use the tool? PDF integration in mobile event apps also enable both event planners and presenters to share useful documents with attendees. Point out the reference material is available in the app, but don’t waste time teaching the material.

In terms of developing a successful learning climate:

[Event planners and organizers] should be careful not to oversell or create false expectations when communicating about forthcoming training programs. Trainees should understand how the training is relevant to successful job performance [for example] but should receive realistic previews of what and how content will be covered.

Setting expectations for sessions enable attendees to look out for certain covered topics and be ready to absorb the material. Consider adding a section to session descriptions in the mobile event app along the lines of “expect to learn” followed by bullet points—all of which are easily managed and updated by admin users in the content management system.

incentivesDuring the Conference

Self belief and setting goals goes a long way in established a successful learning environment at conferences. Individual traits and personalities of course play a role, but proper strategies enable everyone to exceed expectations.

“Motivation to learn can influence whether individuals decide to attend… the level of effort they exert toward learning during training, and the perseverance they demonstrate in applying skills.”

Consider providing incentives in the form of quizzes or surveys in a mobile event app. Correct submissions might be entered into a drawing or shared on social media to incentivize everyone to pay attention and get the most out of an event. Simply adding big-picture goals or session-by-session checklists—much like the pre-event strategy of telling attendees what to expect—is also a useful tool.

The methods of education also matter. The study points out drilling information repeatedly might promote rapid memory acquisition of the content, but is seldom transferred post-event to situations of use. In other words; short-term memory is prioritized over deep learning and long-term gains. Make sure content is meaningful and insightful for attendees well after the conference ends and may be put into practice when people return to their day jobs.

flagsAfter the Conference

The transfer of education and training to attendees and ensuring the event leaves an lasting impact is imperative. While creating a perfect environment for attendees after the event isn’t feasible when conferences welcome people from all over the world and from multiple organizations, a number of tools are still available to event planners for post-event outreach.

“Transfer of training is the ‘endgame’…”

Provide a forum for feedback and continued support like event app social media integration, questionnaires, and post-event surveys. Encourage attendees to post questions to social media for colleagues and email speakers or other attendees directly from the mobile app’s contact directory. Make webcasts of important sessions and a library of PDF documents available in the app to serve as a resource 365-days a year. The authors of the study advise that organizations “provide trainees [attendees] with access to appropriate information sources, tools, and people…” What better tool than mobile event apps?

Technology-Based Training

The study specifically references the relationship between technology and education. Simply put, making technology available isn’t a magic bullet. Event planners must “use technology-based training wisely—choose the right media and incorporate effective design principles.” Attention to detail and content trumps entertainment factors and gamification for the sake of doing something cool. Effective branding, an intuitive user interface, and reliability all work hand in hand with choosing and presenting the right content to attendees.

For details on AppBurst's mobile event apps: 

Big thanks to Jeff Hurt at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting for continuing to write a very insightful blog about events and conferences. His recent post entitled “Myths Your Conference Should Stop Perpetuating” introduced AppBurst to the APS study used in this article. Jeff’s post provides much broader context to overall education at conferences and serves as a good companion to the event app-centric information found here.