Posts Tagged ‘Adult Learning’



March 17, 2014

In past months, I’ve occasionally referred to the movement over the last ten years to refine corporate communications by using knowledge gained in recent years about how adults learn.  As we switch the emphasis off the one-way talks and incessant monotonous PPT, we have explored the benefits of creating interactive engagements within the meeting/event setting that do a better job.  We’ve measured the results; we know retention is expanded and implementation of new ideas going forward has a greater chance of success. We’ve been used as the case study by MPI as they introduced a whole new world to meeting planners called MEETING DESIGN.  The results of that launched last August with an 18-month campaign conducted by MPI to start a world-wide change in what a meeting IS and how to get better results.

Over those same ten years of changing our own thinking, we have also noticed a supportive movement developing.  In fact, MPI used a common denominator graphic through-out the Meeting Design launch.  That growing movement incorporates illustrations and pictures into the corporate communication plans.  If nothing else, it is a welcome relief from the bastardization of POWERPOINT as it has evolved from a Good to Bad supportive tool for Corporate America communications in the last 25 years!

This is not a new “gimmick; it is indeed a response to how much the world has discovered about adult learning , how people retain, recall, and integrate new information going forward from your executive conference, sales meeting or employee gathering.  Interaction and engagement do indeed play a key role – although I become concerned when clients translate that into something called “what are the interactives”- definitely a fingernail on chalkboard moment for me!

No, this is something we have done all our lives.  As children, we told stories with our crayons and stack of manilla paper.  In school, we learned a picture is worth a thousand words.  Our teachers drew pictures and scattered words on the blackboard/greenboard/whiteboard that generally emphasized key points to remember to “pass the test”.  We had notebooks filled with doodles as we sat in a course lecture-and, amazingly, we studied for tests from those notes and doodles, and somehow made it through our early lives of formalized education.  Through-out our adult lives, to give a friend the directions to a meet-up spot, we still draw a map; we sketch a picture or chart on a napkin in the coffee shop or bar to capture our thoughts in a discussion. We doodle as we listen; we doodle as we talk, we doodle as we learn.

Don’t misunderstand; I am not against the PPT as a tool and common point of reference in a discussion. I simply am appalled at how corporations USE PPT – as an easy-to-read-from the back-of-the-room-indoctrination BOOK– and thereby turn most communication opportunities into a joke.

 However, slowly but surely, the naysayers have spoken up and showed us a better way – with supporting statistics to prove that pictures and symbols deliver more impressive results because that is how we LEARN.

An inspiration to me, as this revolution back to what works is taking place, has been David Armano at Edelman Digital.  I subscribe to his blog “L + E Logic + Emotion”, so when I least expect it, I am transported into that world to which I aspire.   The narrative is thought-provoking, and the illustrations are phenomenal.  If you do not know of him, put him on your list! 

If you search for David on Google, you will find him everywhere including a lot of places you may never have heard of in the social world.  But before you get lost in the many sites, take a minute a click on “Images for David Armano”.    You will be transported into a whole new world of pictures and drawing that are indescribable except to say “never-ending light bulbs” get turned on in my brain!  Connections are made between Armano’s thoughts and my current project and I am filled with more new ideas than I could ever see to fruition in my lifetime.

This is how the brain works, folks, and this is why I remain motivated to cry out “Down with One-Way Preaching and the Abominable use of PPT in Corporate America!




October 15, 2013

Back in the mid-2000s, event and meeting planners started to envision a NEW WAY forward that better matched emerging research on how we learn….The “Adult Learning” revolution launched simultaneously with technical advances that were propelling us into a digital age.

Here at Creative Events, we became followers of these visionaries, did some exploration of collaboration and new learning tools, and tried to focus on engaging our audiences to interact with each other and their own thought-leaders. We got our “feet wet”  in 2008 with the GOP Convention and by 2010 we were ready for the grand experiment of developing a collaborative of independent event peeps to test our theories and growing knowledge when we were selected as the vendor to for a Boston Scientific Employee meeting.

You have heard the story, seen the pictures, positive press, and awards that signaled we were on the right track.  We delivered good results; we were recognized for it and this year in August, MPI launched a new initiative called “MEETING DESIGN” that used those two BSCI employee meetings as the case study to support their new curriculum.  Over the next 12-16 months, 71 MPI chapters internationally will be introduced to this concept that revolutionizes the Meetings Industry; and slowly, ISES, as well, is executing events with something more than A WOW factor-thank goodness!

Simultaneously as a volunteer , I have participated in brainstorming several revitalization projects in the City of Minneapolis (Plan It Hennepin, Washington Avenue,  the Cultural Corridor, Nicollet Avenue Street Car Plan and  the latest project just introduced – the redesign of Nicollet Mall itself)…not to mention the West River Road Trails Improvement plan and the continuing evolution of the latest 30 year plan for the Central Riverfront…all of which have introduced me to an international concept called creative-place making.  Much of that has focused on building consensus and building/sharing visions through the use of art. 

Out of that, has come a strong desire to experiment with applying those same creative processes to meetings and events in order to achieve that same warmth and depth I was seeing emerge in community events – that is  not necessarily achieved from social media and current technology alone.

Meanwhile, Boston Scientific has continued to push forward…applying a key corporate value – not only to the patient and healthcare in general, but to business applications in their healthcare world. Their commitment to Meaningful Innovation has opened new doors. 

Last month, we started a new journey with them, as we once again turn our thoughts to their next Employee Meeting in late Spring of 2014. 

Is the world ready to take “Meeting Design” one step further?

If we unlock a meeting from the need to have a BIG room, BIG stage, and BIG seating blocks for a general session…then we have a whole new world of possibilities before us.  Maybe all those costs and time spent with hotel/convention center infrastructure can be redirected to the purpose and outcomes of any given meeting:  increasing adult learning and achieving results…creating an improved corporate environment for all.  In 2014, we will test our new theory.  The BSCI Employee Meeting will be held on each campus during the same week’s timeframe.  To accomplish that, we need to create engagement points that allow interaction before, during, and after the Town Hall experience; we need to ensure that engagement and interaction is between all employees and their leadership. Along the way, we hope to give employees what they need and want in order to get results for Boston Scientific and for their patients. And we hope to do that utilizing the power of all the technology on both those campuses supported by interactive projects that result in a bit of creative “corporate” community-making, as we also work with the BSCI space design folks to tell the story on empty walls  in lobbies, cafeterias, and within departments across a total of ten buildings on three campuses. Stay tuned on this one.  With no clear path to follow, I’m sure we’ll have some stumbles as we explore how to best to do this, but something tells me, we are opening the door on a whole new world.

And so the exploration begins-guided by new visions of what this Meeting and Event world can be.





October 8, 2013

How sad is this!

Americans 18-65 are below average in skills needed to compete in the global economy-compared to 21 other democratic countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to an article in the Washington Post, our scores for literacy, problem solving, and numeracy are ALL BELOW AVERAGE….# 13 in literacy; # 15 in problem solving in tech environment; and # 19 in math.

Perhaps as more results like this become available, I will stop being considered the outlier who is constantly pleading for the US to get our collective heads out of the sand, and stop being influenced by the “Angry Old Birds” who can’t get past our heyday in the 20th century.

We now live in the DIGITAL AGE- Get used to it!  Our education system for the most part is based on a system developed 100 years ago; and it’s pretty obvious we are allowing a MINORITY of nay-saying nuts in the Tea Party far too much influence in our government.  They are not even ok with late 20th century thinking; they  are, at a minimum, stuck in 1946 – if not back when our education system was devised at the TURN of the 20th century.

AGAIN I SAY, It’s a hard read in terms of concepts and 21st century realities, but it is time to accept books like THE NEW DIGITAL AGE as reality….it is time to get on board and at least try to understand what the digital age means to us as a individuals, and as a country, and stop hanging on the past.  Until we do, we will continue this downward spiral.



September 4, 2013

Some of us first embraced what has become one of MPI’s five principles of Meeting Design back in 2008 during the Republican Convention in Minnesota when several small businesses successfully experimented with collaboration to produce an award-winning hospitality event for Medtronic.

It was cutting-edge at the time; it made sense; it worked well for us and for our client; and it was well recognized in the Events world with several Star Awards…as well as a lot of industry press.

Two years later, we came together again-a collaborative of individual businesses-armed with more knowledge  not only about how to better work together, but about how 21st century research  had unlocked more secrets to the brain and how it functioned.  A revolution was happening in adult learning.  We may have been the experts in times gone by, but in this new world, we had to make some changes.

An opportunity at Boston Scientific gave us a chance to do just that as we were selected in 2010 to produce an all employee one-day meeting for 5000 persons.  We learned more; the client achieved not only their objectives, but the event exceeded their expectations and we were engaged for a second time, to do a follow-up meeting a year later.  We added new skillsets to the team; we understood more and more as we went forward, and we earned more recognition in not only awards, but international press coverage.  By now, we knew we were on the right track, and engaged Brett Culp to tape that second meeting which then became a great sales tool for each of us, but also cast us into “Event Fame” when he shared it in his presentation at The Special Event in 2013.


 Meanwhile, we had already started on a new journey.  In February, 2012, we were approached by MPI Research to become the case study to support their new initiative to launch “MEETING DESIGN”.

 It was a long process, but in early August this year, I received my copy of the final version.  It then rolled out in the August, 2013 edition of MPI’s “The Meeting Professional” Magazine.  The complete MPI Toolkit followed on August 20.

It also debuted in Toronto at IncentiveWorks August 19-21, clearly spelling out the Five Principles of Meeting Design:

  1. 1.       Assessment and Evaluation
  2. 2.       Experience
  3. 3.       Distributed Learning
  4. 4.       Collaboration
  5. 5.       Meaningful Evaluation


And as I understand, the rollout will continue through 71MPI chapters around the world over the next 12-18 months. 

Our Minnesota “Collaboratory” is proud of our work; we are proud of the recognition; and we continue to learn and grow as each of us moves forward utilizing this 21st century way of thinking about meetings and adult learning.  Perhaps we’ll have some updates to share when MPI WEC arrives in MSP in 2014!







May 14, 2012

Little did I know when-as part of my commitment to Plan It Hennepin-I confirmed my participation in half of the available opportunities to interact with Charles Landry, that I’d be sitting here this morning wishing I would have done MORE!

To prepare, I ordered “The Art of City-Making” and immediately found myself immersed in a whole new “Landry” world…a 21st century viewpoint of cities that melds my UM days of history and city planning – not only with my passion for the river, but also with idea after idea for my world of event-making in terms of collaborative thinking AND wonderful fun ways of creative engagement and interaction that balance the hard edges of social media and the narrower window of just interactive media applications to achieve those goals, create community, and facilitate adult learning and change.  YES!!!

So excited to learn more, off I went last Monday to the Cowles for “Connecting Cities, Connecting Cultures”; Tuesday we were at the Capri for “North Minneapolis: Arts, Culture and Community Development:, missed an important “Intercultureal City-Making Workshop” on Thursday; but rejoined the group on Friday for the Close on Harriet Island where Landry shared his observations, made recommendations and call to action for our own MSP city-making.

WIth my head full of ideas and action steps, I was charged up when I went to FAIR School on Saturday for the Talk-It Hennepin workshop “Coming, Going, and Staying on Hennepin” – a three hour exercise that took us to the streets.

Broken into five groups, each group set out for their assigned area, and using Landry’s system of YES and NO, we acknowledged the Yes things; and  took pictures of the five “nos” that need to be altered.

Our group, led by Harry Waters and supported by some great FAIR students were assigned the stretch from Hennepin Avenue Bridge to Washington Avenue. We quickly rallied, hopped on a bus and we were off!

Our first NO was the non-pedestrian/bike friendly bridge itself; then on to the Post Office or at least its “weedy knoll” leading down to the river walk, a third NO at the sad little Gateway Park of concrete and a dead fountain, and finally to the four corners of Hennepin and Washington…with a thought or two to the side streetscapes intersecting Hennepin and to the Public Housing High Rise seen a block away.

Along the way, we staged a mini-“Occupy” event as we reminisced about a once-welcoming NWNL campus that now under the ING regime was posted “No Trespassing”.  So of course, the rebel in us called for a picture of the team relaxing on the grass – “OCCUPY-ING”. The police that drove by during our “sit-in” did not move to arrest us, so I would like to think perhaps they agreed with our statement.

Then back on the bus and back to FAIR School where with the help of our talented students, we developed our PPT of significant Nos and wonderful images of what some of those Nos could become in the future.

This morning, thinking about that day, I am still charged up and looking forward to June workshops at the New Century Theatre in City Center.

This is just an AMAZING process!  And once again, I say Thank You to Hennepin Theatre Trust, Walker Art Center, Artspace, and the City of Minneapolis funded by the National Endowment of the Arts for inviting me to be a part of it!



February 1, 2012

Once upon a time in another life, the San Francisco Sales team at CMG had a new client that was interested in using the services of the CMG Meetings Division to assist with their annual sales meeting in Hawaii.  So off I went to Cupertino to experience the culture shock of my introduction to Apple Computer.

They were dressed in jeans, t-shirts, and shorts; they carried backpacks-not Hartman briefcases; they met in glass-walled conference rooms; all those with name badges numbered under 400 were millionaires including the receptionist and the mail boy; and they rolled out the beer kegs at noon on Fridays as a thank you to all employees for working hard all week.  And most unsettling, they challenged their vendors to play the game their way or don’t come calling.

Believe me, in the corporate world three decades ago, this was NOT the norm! Nor did I easily give up my formal corporate uniform…until they told me I wouldn’t be let in the door if I arrived one more time “all suited up”.

Many had heard of this fledging company that was doing something no one quite understood with computers (and crazy commercials) so I often was asked about them when I returned to Minneapolis.  My comments usually included some description of a west coast CULT – with a mission “to save the world” and if that was not silly enough, they were going to do so  by targeting K-12 kids as they put their “apples” in every school around the nation.   And so they did.

To see the headline “iRead, iWrite, iLearn” in today’s Strib should not have been a surprise.  To revolutionize “publishing space” by reinventing textbooks as they announced their three new products designed to uproot the traditional learning experience deserves a hearty round of applause. I was only surprised that the Star Tribune positioned it as “Apple’s venture into education”-as if they have not done this before!

And this time around, I expect it will be much more than a publishing revolution – the results it drives may well be the impetus needed for all of us to understand that it is time to take the leap and quit teaching to meet the needs of the industrial revolution of the 20th century.  It is time to throw out how schools supported industry and look towards rethinking what are education goals of today and how new knowledge uncovered in the last two decades has changed our understanding of how the brain works and how we learn.   Apply technology; create interactive tools, and engage our students in dialogues.  We’ll be surprised about what they will learn….and what we can learn from them!




April 6, 2010

In a seminar at Event Solutions, Jeff Hurt suggested we read a book entitled BRAIN RULES by John Medina, as we would find support for why we in the meetings and events industry need to rethink how we structure and deliver conference education. Of course, being the book-lover, I immediately returned from Las Vegas and ordered the book – which I finished this morning. Although I have not completely followed the instructions yet and also watched the 45 minute film, I have already become a disciple! The Twelve Rules are right on, and most importantly, support my position that change in our industry is absolutely necessary, with case studies and research and example after example – all delivered in an interesting and thought-provoking way.

I have been talking about the 21st century Adult Learning Model for several years now. I first encountered the term Adult Learning back in the early 80s when I entered the realm of meeting/event production and that life described with the antiquated term, “business theatre”. As that world started to morph sometime during the late 90s, I attributed the change totally to the emergence of the digital world and the impact of a new generation entering the workforce. Originally, I thought we as an industry needed to start shifting the way we did things within a meeting or event environment in order to hold the attention of a younger audience. Then, with the growth of technology and social media in this last decade, I slowly moved to a position that this was no longer a generational phenomena; it was a universal shift towards involvement, engagement, and empowerment of ANY audience-but still powered by the digital age. And to survive in this business, we needed to understand, support, and implement changes that were built on those new principles.

But as I immersed myself in the BRAIN RULES experience, I learned I had missed the underlying cause of this shift. In recent years, studies of the brain and discoveries of how it works have revolutionized our knowledge of how we learn. Much of what we thought as recently as ten years ago has been proven wrong, and whole new bodies of knowledge now exist for us to tap into, understand, and apply so that we do a better job in educating not only the young, but adults as well. (My favorite new information is that the left-brain analytic vs. right-brain creative person is now considered folklore. YES! We all use both sides of the brain – one to remember details and one to remember the gist of an experience.)

In the closing chapter, Medina holds up the learning model of medical schools as a worthy approach and suggests it works because there is consistent exposure to the real world; consistent exposure to people who operate in the real world; and consistent exposure to practical research programs. Most important he introduces our evolutionary need to explore, the importance of people who think about the future, and the need to support and keep alive the innate curiosity of a child and how they learn BEFORE going to school.

He ends with a vision of a new college of education that could change how we think about schools and formal education. Not being a teacher, nor an expert in this realm, I will leave that discussion to those that know, but he certainly convinced me that perhaps Minnesota might want to take a look at the approach in view of our growing achievement gap and recent loss in trying to get federal funds for education.

Meanwhile, new possibilities are incubating for me about how we can use events and experiences as teaching moments, and how we might re-think our own industry to become better event and meeting producers as we go forward.



March 12, 2010

We didn’t just work the entire time we were in Vegas– we visited the 800-booth trade show floor, spent one evening at “Anthology” – a night filled with a collection of culinary creativity from Chilean Duck Duck tacos to torched American Lamb t-bone steaks to a caviar bar and live champagne chandelier s set amongst the umbrellas, with a finish of nitro ice cream at the 321⁰ below zero ice cream station, and we also attended a few classes.

I smiled and nodded my head in agreement throughout one of those classes as Jeff Hurt, Director of Education and Engagement at Velvet Chainsaw, shared his ideas of how to plan and produce next-generation conferences and events.

Over the last few months, I have often talked about the new adult learning model, the need to pull not push out information, and the need to look for new methods that are participatory and collaborative. So when I read Jeff’s course description describing the way people learn today and how that impacts the traditional conference or event where typically there are “one too many presentations with a sage on the stage and a passive listening audience”, I knew I had to make his session – even though it started at 7AM! So, off I went, and I was not disappointed.

Jeff took us through recent research about traditional room set ups – pretty easy to improve those – and then launched into five principles for redesigning learning elements during conference general sessions and workshops- along with a discussion about the impact of the traditional hierarchy of expertise, top-down, controlled, presumed authority presentations on an audience of learners.

If you want your meetings and conferences to reflect 21st century thinking and provide pay-back for your client, then visit Jeff’s blog at The deck is posted under the title of “Catalyst Conferences: How to Plan and Produce Next-Generation Conferences & Events”. For some, it will be a review with a few good new supporting facts and tips. For others, it will be a major revelation!

For me, it was the affirmation I needed to turn my thoughts for change into a major campaign. It is time to move forward.



September 29, 2009

This past week, I experienced a transition in what social media means for me. From its impact on forming a sense of community with “like” people and a basic appreciation of its marketing and communications applications in the event world, I have jumped to a whole new level of understanding of its usefulness and one that ties directly to the Creative Events mission of facilitating the communication of a quality, cost-effective and motivational message within every meeting or event environment.

An article in Meetings Net gave me some practical tips. One, attendees tweeting at my events will tip me off to situations that need my attention – whether that be the room is too warm, the music is too loud, or the beverage service is backed up. It is my responsibility on site to monitor those logistical details so that our guests are not distracted. I agree with Peter Hutchins at ASAE that I would rather know about the issue when I can act to correct it, than for it to become a negative mark on the event after it’s over.

Further, the ASAE article hinted at something much more important as it referenced Twitter moving from “interesting” to “useful” as it served as a means to relay questions between speakers and non-attendees. For ASAE, that was a signal to think more about two audiences – the ones that were physically at the meeting site, and those that are attending virtually through social communities of the attendee -and how the event organizer must do a better job of meeting the needs of both.

That provided a bridge back to an interesting podcast last week between Sue Peltier and Jeff De Cagna of Principled Innovation, LLC. In short, Mr. DeCagna suggested planners need to think differently about “social”- virtual has arrived. We devalue events when we do not allow opportunities for interaction, and create a show instead of an interactive experience. We need to integrate connectivity into our planning and encourage both face to face and virtual engagement for our audience. We should challenge our producers and speakers to get involved in this process. We need to create an environment in which the live and virtual community engages and wants to tell the story of their experience.

In the third point of that podcast – covering the need to nurture the learning mindset, it all came together for me. As DeCagna posed the question of what was a more “learnful” experience – to try to stay focused on the words of the speaker, or to allow myself to immediately share a point of interest with my community to discuss informally, peer-to-peer, with real time feedback, I finally moved forward to understand that social media is a powerful learning tool. It becomes the social interaction we once planned to happen after the message delivery to allow for peer discussion. We know that discussion is key to helping our audience to, not only understand, but to also create the memory joggers to recall the message once they leave our event. That is the key to behavioral change. For many in our audience, that social interaction is happening at the same time as the message is delivered-through the use of emerging media applications that allow immediate connectivity to a peer community.

As the event organizer or planner, we should not be concerned about that – we should facilitate it as we continue to support purposeful engagement.

As we reset after the damage of this recession, we will be facing a new economy – one in which every event has to have a strategy that is uniquely developed for its own purpose. As an industry, we need to understand that the adult learning model is changing and we must search for how we can best use tools such as social media to cultivate learning as the priority in our events.

And now, a new challenge for me. “Not enough time” can no longer be my crutch for not becoming better at using social media. There IS no excuse to limit learning opportunities!