No matter how long your event is or what it’s about, one thing will
determine the value attendees get out of it: Their level of recall.
Without recall, they can’t put what you told them into action.
Recall is affected by some things you can’t control, like an
attendee’s motivation level. The big factor, however, is one you
can plan around: Keeping attendees from becoming overwhelmed.
Attendees get overwhelmed when they have to process too much
information in too short a span of time. Each person has a mental
store of attention resources” that diminishes over time.
Once someone is mentally fullor just plain burned out they are
effectively done for the day. You can keep talking to them, but
they are unlikely to get real, long-lasting value from it.
Luckily, you can take action to defeat distraction and make your
event more accessible. This makes information overload much less
likely, so people remember what was saidnot just how they felt
- Distribute Talking Points
Provide talking points both before and after sessions. Many people
will want to follow along, and this will enhance their ability to
absorb what they hear. Plus, they can refer to this resource later
on to jog their memory. That’s essential if they need to take
- Provide Plenty of Breaks
Giving a topic 25 minutes of total focus is much more effective
than an hour of half-attention. If your sessions must be long out
of necessity, be sure there are lengthy breaks more than ten
minutes so attendees can decompress and discuss the key topics
- Define the Rhythm” of Your Event
If one long, brain-busting session follows another, most people
will feel adrift in a sea of new information. Likewise, too much
light stuff can make attendees question the value of the event.
Alternate thought-heavy sessions with lighter interludes that give
the audience processing time.
- Schedule Decision Fatigue Away
If your attendees will be grappling with hard problems, it’s best
to have them do so relatively early. Going from a warm-up to a
heavy mid-morning session means minds will be at their sharpest.
Most conference-goers appreciate it when challenging sessions lead
directly into lunch.
- Get (and Stay) Organized
The more organized you are, the less energy your attendees will
need to spend staying on track. Make sure attendees always know
where they need to be and what they are going to do next. This
leaves them with extra energy they can use to get through to later
- Organize Material Thematically
It takes effort to make the cognitive leap” from one topic area to
another. By organizing events according to theme, you encourage
people to dig deeper into each topic. This can also be helpful for
teams who bring many attendees, hoping to see everything that an
event has to offer.
- Set Space Aside for Conversations
When attendees review what they just heard with others, it
crystallizes new ideas in their minds. That helps information move
from short-term to long-term memory. Not only does this extend the
learning experience, it can also provide opportunities for
networking and collaboration.
When all is said and done, nobody creates the perfect event from
scratch the first time. Even the most experienced event planners
take lessons learned from everything they do.
Still, respecting the time and attention attendees give you is
never the wrong move. These tips are easy to implement, but they
will help your speakers and your audience achieve more.