Experiential learning is the process of connecting abstract ideas to action & reality.
And as we discussed in part one of this series, Experiential Learning: Why it Matters for your Event, your event is much more than a simple gathering of the masses. Top businesses around the world use their corporate event to inspire their employees and foster an emotional understanding of their brand.
The objective is clear: translate that warm, fuzzy feeling your brand incites into a physical environment that connects with your attendees. Clear, but it’s no easy task.
Actually arranging the story-telling aspects of your event takes a village. There are vendor relationships to foster, AV equipment to be loaded in and out and more, plus the ever-elusive C-suite approval on all major brand decisions. But while you may be taking your first crack at planning a corporate conference, or you’re a seasoned production vet, there are always initiatives you can take to ensure your event goes well-beyond lights and sound.
How to Implement Experiential Learning at your corporate event
There are tons of ways for you to get creative with experiential learning and your brand. But endless possibilities means decisions aren’t being made. You first need to narrow the scope to what tactics typically work in the best experiential strategies. From there, you’ll want to personalize each tactic to something unique from your brand.
Don’t get too carried away, though. Remember, you’re the Hollywood director in this scenario, and it is your job to make the story as relatable and understandable as possible.
The best way to engage an audience is to introduce simple and fun activities. Try to get them involved, but don’t ask too much of them or they’ll spend the general and breakout sessions mindlessly liking Instagram posts.
Gamify your Event
Interactivity is key if you want to communicate your brand’s message. We’ve seen many uses of Augmented Reality (AR) technology over the years – some astounding and some awful. While technologies can help create an immersive environment in your event space, you need to make sure it remains focused on telling your story. Don’t use this tech for the sake of tech. Only use it to further your storytelling ability.
A great example of this is using AR to actually increase engagement is to gamify your event with it. Games can incentivize interactivity by providing rewards for those who complete certain actions. You could set up stations around the building where attendees an use their mobile event app to reveal a digital scavenger hunt clue. Each time they look through the lens at your station, they might see a new token or idea (not all that different from Pokemon GO) that relates to your brand.
If you’ve got an intuitive app that logs each time someone sees your brand token, you can use that data to find the most engaged attendees. Reward that behavior with a promotional giveaway for the top 100 AR users. Then sweeten the deal with comp days to the top 50. Why stop there? Give the winner a free cruise trip!
Having a contest like this builds excitement before and throughout the event, waiting to hear who the winner is.
Make the objectives and awards clear from the get-go and watch your audience engage en masse. But you must keep in mind that all of this is to connect users with your brand story. Be sure the content is related to your “why” and leads the attendee toward a new knowledge of your company.
Set up an Audience Poll
Many times, it’s not what was said but how it was said. In the case of corporate event planning, it’s certainly both.
For starters your attendees are adults with independent ideas and preferences and they should be treated as such. Unless you’ve got Leonardo DiCaprio on stage (kudos if you do) you can’t expect them to resonate with a traditional lecture. At the very least, you need to train your speakers or executives to make their speech interactive with the attendees.
Using your mobile app to poll the audience gets the crowd’s voice involved, so long as you ask thought-provoking questions. A speaker may tee-up a difficult question with a couple easy ones. For example:
“Do you feel better when you get more than 6 hours of sleep?” – 84% Yes, 16% No
“Do you like to drink coffee or tea in the morning?” – 72% Yes, 28% No
“Do you think you deserve a promotion at your job?” – 48% Yes, 52% No
Okay, these responses are made up, but you could see how an audience might fall on these fault lines. Plan your questions accordingly by giving the audience a few freebie questions, then drive them home with something they might not be as comfortable with.
Get Your People Personally Involved
You can also get a pulse of the crowd by asking individuals to share their thoughts instead of polling the entire audience. A crowd mic is a great way to accomplish this, and you can usually tell how the audience feels based on their reaction to some Q&A.
Let’s say your event doesn’t have an app and that a crowd mic isn’t an option. No worries, enroll your people in some fun icebreakers. There are a ton of fresh and fun ways to get your people moving in the conference hall. Bonus points if you tie it to your brand story.
If you’re not involving them at this stage you’re losing valuable interactive time but sometimes involving the audience directly isn’t an option. Worst case scenario, you must make sure your speeches are engaging and fun.
A few recent trends we’ve seen are storytelling and faster-paced talks. People relate to stories and it helps them understand the message faster. Faster-paced talks is a trend that is growing because it forces the speaker to be straight to the point and not bore the audience.
Connect Your Learning To The Bigger Picture
Mixing up your presentation styles and adding game elements to your event will make it more engaging and fun for the user. When people are at their most engaged levels they are most open to learning about new ideas and emotionally connecting to something. It’s at that moment that you need to inject your brand story.
Make sure the story resonates with every level of the event, from audience participation to gamification. Companies need to remember that building a connection with their employees involves many steps, where experiential learning is only the first one. That is why companies should use experiential learning as the first step to invite employees to connect with the brand’s message.