Make Boring Fun: 6 Tips for an Engaging Seminar

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If your idea of a good seminar is sitting people down in a function hall, giving them food and drinks, and holding them hostage to your “informative talk,” you must stop and reassess.

Educational sessions are not bad, per se. However, you should never have to hold your audience members hostage so they’d listen.

Tips for an Engaging Seminar

All events are experiential, even educational seminars, and it depends on you — or the corporate team-building event management company you hired to do the job — to ensure the experience is a pleasant one.

The key lies in ensuring you engage and keep your attendees’ interest so they never have to feel forced to participate. In other words, you want your events to be fun, interactive, and enjoyable.

Why Seminars Must Be Fun, Interactive, and Enjoyable

In a Harvard study, students attended highly polished lectures in one class and participated in active learning in another.

The content of both classes was identical, but the two varied in the degree of participation they demanded. Specifically, the former required that students listen to experienced lecturers, while the latter needed them to engage with their learning materials.

After each class, the students were asked to assess how much they felt they had learned. They were also tested with a multiple-choice quiz.

The study results showed that while students felt they learned more from the lectures (i.e., passive learning), their quiz scores indicated otherwise. In fact, the students learned more in active-learning classes.

Active learning leads to better understanding. Therefore, if you want your seminar to leave its mark and do what it is meant to do to — edify and educate — make sure you give your audience an enjoyable experience.

Caveat: You must manage audience perception. In the Harvard study, the subjects believed they learned more from the passive-learning class, even if the opposite was true.

To counter the potential perception that active-learning seminars are less effective than traditional lectures, you can begin your event with a brief primer on why active engagement, interaction, and participation lead to better learning.

After that’s taken care of, you can do what you must to ensure your seminar is fun, interactive, and enjoyable.

Strategies to Keep Your Educational Event Engaging and Captivating

Captivate your event attendees and leave a lasting impression that will set your event apart. You can follow these strategies to engage your seminar participants.

1. Provide a Good and Immersive Environment

Choose your venue wisely. You want a suitable venue with excellent acoustics and plenty of natural lighting. The former ensures your attendees will hear what is said clearly, while the latter improves focus and alertness.

The venue must also be well-ventilated and appropriately cooled (or heated, depending on location and season) to secure audience comfort. More than that, however, you (or your event management curator) should immerse your audience in their environment.

For instance, Huawei’s event management company designed a jungle for the “Welcome to the Jungle” launch event of the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro series.

The venue had towering paper-cut illustrations that swallowed up the attendees, making them feel fully immersed in a jungle. The ambient sounds of rain, thunder, and birds reinforced this feeling.

This example demonstrates that an outstanding event experience begins with an immersive environment. Pay attention to the ambiance, lighting, and decor to create a visually appealing and mesmerizing atmosphere.

Utilize thematic elements, props, and technology to transport attendees into a unique world that aligns with the event’s theme or purpose.

2. Incorporate Interactive Elements

Engage attendees by incorporating interactive elements throughout the event. Create opportunities for hands-on experiences, such as workshops, demonstrations, and interactive exhibits.

The 2015 Facebook IQ Live educational event is an example. The event’s goal was to let marketers and advertisers understand the wealth of data available to them on Facebook.

Instead of gathering everyone in a function hall to let experienced analysts teach the audience where to find and how to use Facebook data, Facebook made Facebook insights come alive through interactive installations.

In the Instagram Café installation, the audience learned about business promotion. A barista also used latte art to put people’s faces on their latte. That was coffee, art, and knowledge all rolled into one engaging experience.

The Home installation, meanwhile, showed how people used Facebook as a source of entertainment. Using actors that simulated the everyday life of new parents, the exhibit revealed that new moms would often check Facebook in the wee hours of the morning; they would do this as they fed their babies.

The installations did not only bring Facebook insights to life for the benefit of the event audience. They also provided an immersive environment that reinforced the event theme (see above tip), “Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.”

Aside from interactive installations, you can use conference room solutions like touch screens or virtual reality to add an element of excitement and active participation to your event.

3. Leverage Audience Participation

Encourage audience participation and involvement and encourage attendees to actively contribute to the discussion. Use live polling or question-and-answer (Q&A) sessions to gather real-time feedback and encourage audience participation.

Incorporate audience-generated content, such as user-generated videos or social media challenges, to enhance engagement and create a sense of community.

4. Incorporate Surprise Elements and Entertainment

Arrange surprise guest speakers, spontaneous performances, or exclusive product unveilings to create memorable moments. These surprise elements break the monotony and add an element of excitement.

You can also inject moments of lighthearted fun and entertainment throughout the event by incorporating live performances, music, photo booths, or interactive games. These will let attendees relax, connect, and have memorable experiences.

5. Curate Engaging Content

Content and speaker management are vital to crafting compelling content that educates, entertains, and sparks interest. Choose speakers, panelists, and performers with a dynamic presence who can deliver captivating presentations and performances. Incorporate diverse perspectives, interactive discussions, and thought-provoking sessions.

6. Foster Meaningful Networking

Facilitate meaningful connections among attendees by incorporating dedicated networking sessions or activities into your event schedule. Do not make networking an afterthought; make it one of your event highlights.

Arrange ice-breaker activities, group discussions, and networking games that can encourage attendees to interact with each other and forge new connections. Add pre- and post-seminar mixers, and consider utilizing technology platforms or event apps to facilitate networking among attendees, connecting them based on shared interests or goals.

Captivate Your Event Audience

Seminars may be educational, but educational doesn’t mean dull. Follow the above strategies to create fun, interactive, and enjoyable experiences that captivate attendees from beginning to end. (DW)

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