How to Make Learning Stick for Your Attendees

Use these retention tactics for an info-heavy Educate meeting

Compared with, say, a Celebrate or Network event, Educate meetings might be many of your attendees’ least favorite meeting type––and with good reason. Watching an hourslong presentation, coupled with extensive note-taking, draws up memories of school lectures droning on. (Is it almost lunchtime yet?!) But unlike school-age learning where you could probably squeeze by with a mid-class snooze, in our high-stakes adult life, retaining that information isn’t just a good idea––it can be vital to performing important work. 

Even if the content being delivered is less than sexy, how do you ensure your attendees are retaining, and engaging with, the presentation? Here, we offer three surefire methods for ensuring learning sticks for your attendees. 

Try a Method That’s Been Circulating for Centuries

Although the tools for presenting information in a meeting have changed substantially over the course of history (think scrolls recited over candlelight versus staring at a projection screen in a darkened room), the challenge of retaining information has remained virtually the same. But as with using natural ingredients like eggs, honey and avocado in a beauty routine, some centuries-old techniques for self-improvement still hold truth today. 

Pegged as the first known text on memorization, Rhetorica ad Herennium (written around 80 B.C.) says that when ideas are associated with objects, they are more easily remembered. And according to an article from The New York Times, it’s a technique that’s as effective today as it was thousands of years ago. 

The ancient text specifies that when an idea is tied to a memorable scene, the idea is better retained––meaning that tethering your meeting’s message to imagery is essential. If it’s a particular product you’re familiarizing attendees with, consider reserving time to actually visit the factory floor where it’s being made, or conduct a hands-on demonstration. Alternatively, if it’s simply an idea or logic that you’d like to get across to your attendees, find ways to tie those ideas directly to images, like a recognizable cartoon, graphic or visual anecdote. 

Turn the Teaching Tables

According to a study from NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science, oftentimes the best way to retain information isn’t by being a better student––it’s by being a teacher. 

According to the research, 90 percent of learners better retain information when they teach it to someone else almost immediately. The study says this is because when you teach, you’re more likely to make mistakes regarding new information. However, when you encounter these mistakes in the moment, your brain is likelier to concentrate harder to correct the mistake and retain the correct information in the future.  

In terms of how this applies to your own meeting, consider separating attendees into smaller focus groups after a presentation and asking them to recall the content that was delivered by giving one another brief quizzes or having a group discussion. Adopting authority over the message––versus simply being a recipient of it––will help to empower learners and improve their memory retention. 

Get Gaming

Whether it was Oregon Trail on the computer, finagling with counting blocks or singing along to Sesame Street jingles, many of us have fond memories associated with school games. Decades later, this logic still applies to adults. 

As an article from Forbes highlighted, gameplay at work can enhance learning and motivation. There are two distinct approaches to learning-based games: gamification and gameplay. And while both are effective tools for ensuring attendees adequately digest information, their approaches are vastly different. 

Gamification relies on a reward system to encourage learning retention. In terms of how that translates to your meetings, incentivize attendees to pay attention with a post-meeting quiz paired with desirable rewards (think gift cards, spa sessions). Gameplay, however, relies less on incentivizing and more on engagement, tapping into storylines, characters and interactive elements. If you’re hoping to outline a new training module for attendees, for example, consider tapping into virtual reality technology that allows individuals to digest and interact with content almost immediately.