Experiential Learning: Why It Matters for Your Corporate Event

When you hear “experiential learning,” what comes to your mind?

It might be hands-on training for a technical position or team bonding through a shared activity. For you extremists, it could even be a baptism-by-fire scenario you’re still scarred about from your teenage years working the drive-thru.

No matter your first impression, experiential learning boils down to one simple idea: learning by doing.

It’s not a new concept by any measure. Many businesses around the world have taken note of the vast scientific evidence asserting the clear-cut benefits of learning through experience. These companies threw out the cheesy training videos and massive employee manuals, instead opting for programs that get their people interacting with one another and the customers they’ll live to serve.

But here at CPG, we aren’t necessarily experts in experiential learning – at least not in the traditional sense. Our producers borrow experiential learning concepts and use those concepts to connect people to a brand story. The result is something we typically refer to as “Belief through Experience.”

Why Your Event Needs Experiential Learning

Your corporate event might not be the perfect environment to teach your people a highly technical skill, but it does serve as the ideal time and place to inspire authentic brand advocacy and connect people to your company values.

This is mainly because…

Interactivity inspires authentic loyalty

Interactivity is the key to successful experiential learning. It means the subject is giving something in order to gain something, and this quid-pro-quo aspect increases the person’s perceived value of what they are learning. In short, people value things they work for more than things that are just given to them. 

Take the age-old movie vs. book debate. When a high schooler flips through The Hobbit for the first time, they actively imagine a vast world filled with mythical creatures and epic battles. Then they meet with other students and discuss other interpretations of the work, opening their mind to even more possibilities.

Oftentimes, those same students will watch the movie version only to be disappointed. “The book is way better than the movie,” they argue. Because their imaginations were much more vast than what Hollywood can deliver, they wind up letdown.

But getting people to interact with your brand is difficult

Sure the book might be better than the movie to some people, but that’s not the case for everyone. Some people simply prefer the visual representation instead. Maybe they don’t connect with the author’s style, or they aren’t a big fan of reading to begin with.

Put differently, not every employee will want to learn about your brand story on their own time.

The truth is many people enjoy the movie because of its convenience. Instead of concentrating for hours on a medium they aren’t totally comfortable with, they can easily experience Hollywood’s interpretation. The directors, producers and screenwriters do all the heavy lifting for the audience – interpreting the book and creating an easier-to-digest version.

The same rings true for your corporate event

Effective event producers are experts at taking a brand story and bringing it to life. Your most engaged worker might be someone who started as a cashier and worked their way up over 40 years to become an executive. This individual did the equivalent of reading the book five times, reading the lore background books, reading fan fiction and starting a school club.

That is the sort of interactivity you cannot replicate with every single employee. You can, however, connect your other employees to that inspirational story. Thoughtful leaders hone in the “why” surrounding what made that employee so passionately loyal all these years, and they will want to translate that “why” to the largest possible audience they can.

Seeing is believing

There is no better time to appeal to a broad audience than at your annual corporate event. 

For starters, you’ll want to give your most stark brand advocates (the book worms) the recognition they deserve. Whether you host an event awards ceremony to celebrate individual achievements or make announcements at your general session, it’s important to show your people you care about those who put in the most time and effort.

For everyone else, convention will function as the “movie” version of your brand story. Your production agency will interpret your brand story and develop a comprehensive strategy to deliver that story to your attendees. They’ll consider every angle for your story, making it both easy and fun to digest as a result.

Finally, this is the time when your most influential employees will all be together. If you can communicate your key message and inspire this audience, that inspiration will resonate throughout every level of your company.

On To The “How”

The best execution appeals to the book and movie crowd most evenly and effectively (Harry Potter, anyone?). Use your annual event as the exposition of your brand’s story.

Now that we’ve established the “why” behind adding a dose of experiential learning to your event, we’ll dig into the “how.” Check out part two of this series – Experiential Learning: How To Implement It At Your Corporate Event