The Role of Curriculum Development in Successful Meetings and Events

Curriculum development refers to the process by which an educational activity moves from theory into an actual event (this can be live, an online self-paced program, webinar, etc.).

This process is focused on answering the questions, “What should learners know how to do, (better or differently) as a result of the education provided and how will we get them there?”

Determining this is a crucial step in the process, yet we rarely speak about curriculum development related to meetings and events.

If we think of our meetings as one of the essential segments along the curriculum pathway, how might we change the way we do things to benefit our learners? And, how can you implement principles of curriculum development into your planning process? Here are a few ideas:

Start with the end in mind

Before discussing logistics and meeting specs, determine what you want the event to accomplish, including outcomes based on learning objectives, feedback from attendees and overall metrics for success. Identify how and where the event fits into your organization’s educational strategic plan. Use this information to structure the schedule so it aligns with the strategic plan to provide educational content before, during and after the event.

Develop a set of learning objectives for the event

The benefit of learning objectives is that they provide a framework that clearly communicates the educational goals of an event. How well you meet those goals can be one measurement of success. Integrate defined learning objectives into your speaker proposal process and provide a list of sample learning objectives complete with action verbs in your speaker proposal website.

Restructure the learning spaces

Ask yourself, “What can we do within the available space to help achieve the stated objectives and provide a dynamic learning experience for attendees?” 

For example, could you recreate the standard exhibit hall layout to provide options for learning outside of the standard classroom setting? For one of our client organizations, SmithBucklin constructed a “learning lounge” that included space for a “genius bar” to provide attendees with the opportunity to ask questions of subject matter experts. 

We also set up a small stage for mini-presentations on hot topics, a roundtable area for deeper conversations about concurrent session topics with facilitators, and a staging area for vendors to demonstrate their products and services. The feedback we received was very positive.  

It’s also important to work with your speakers to help them define how they’d like to structure their “classroom” and offer creative ideas. Rather than focusing on crescent rounds because it will be hard to “turn” that room later, work to maximize utilization and try to fit other similarly structured sessions into that space.

Prepare speakers to serve as facilitators of learning

According to several sources, public speaking is still the number one fear of adults. And it’s no wonder, as we often impose on a speaker the need to be the ultimate authority. So what can you do to change that paradigm?  

The transition from lecturer to facilitator can be challenging for even the most seasoned speakers. To help them through this process, offer “training of trainers” programs to teach facilitation skills and prepare speakers to integrate these skills into presentations.

Provide consultation services for speakers to help them build their presentations to include time for audience participation and reflection.

Having received positive feedback from increased audience engagement, those speakers who make the change can serve as evangelists in encouraging other speakers to do the same.

Build in processing time

Adults need time to make sense of the provided content and to reflect on and discuss it. All those folks gathered in the hallway between sessions speaking animatedly together are doing just that: processing! Provide 15 minutes at a minimum between sessions. And if that’s not possible, build in discussion sessions throughout the evening. 

Follow up with attendees to determine how they are applying what they learned  

Many of us are using mobile apps so we can evaluate sessions in real time. However, how many of us are asking the participants to indicate how they plan to use what they’ve learned at the event and assessing how well they’re doing on that commitment four to six weeks afterwards?

Understanding how learners are putting their knowledge to use is incredibly valuable in planning for next year’s event. 

Posted by Christine Murphy Peck

Christine is senior director of education and learning services at SmithBucklin Corporation.

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