In the traditional meeting model, a large room filled with delegates would spend an entire day or more patiently listening to the same speakers. To break up the monotony, maybe there would be a couple of guest presenters, some product demonstrations or a first look at the results of a related study. Attendees would be sent home with a binder that was full of information but a mind that was drained.

Education is the key reason for most meetings, but how do you ensure that attendees are actually learning and retaining your information? We know that a great deal of time, expense and effort go into planning meetings. An event that leaves attendees bored or mentally exhausted reflects poorly on the host company and delivers a poor return on investment. When we started Six Degrees Medical, we wanted to change all that – to create a different meeting model.

We execute over 100 meetings every year, mixing exciting high tech with tried and true low tech to capture and keep an audience’s attention. Leaving behind the traditional didactic approach, we developed a new, interactive meeting style where the amount of time sitting in a large room is kept to a minimum, and participants are engaged in various ways through a series of small groups sessions, competitive learning techniques and more.

Small Group Learning

Small group learning, such as breakout sessions or workshops, have been shown to increase  comprehension. The very meeting environment is structured to maximize understanding, by focusing on active participation instead of teaching. We employ small group learning to allow members to share their thoughts and ideas, and get actively involved in the learning process.

Competitive and Team-Based Learning

Competitive learning creates an environment where meeting participants are motivated to learn because their achievements will be recognized, whether individually or as a team. Adding elements of competition and recognition makes people more accountable for their learning, driving them to be more proactive in participating, which leads to greater understanding.

A great way to encourage team spirit and healthy competition is to organize groups from different regions or countries to compete against each other. Individual competitive learning and team-based learning can be as low tech as asking questions after a presentation and recognizing the individuals or teams with the right answers; it can also involve high tech gamification techniques to amp up the entertainment – and engagement – value.

Gamification is the application of game techniques and rewards like points, levels and other incentives to affect participant behaviour in a positive way. In our meetings, we take traditional, didactic presentations to a new level by using iPads to gamify points-based questionnaires, highlighting the information participants have learned. We encourage competition by regularly announcing which team is winning to keep everyone actively involved in learning.

Reflective Learning

By asking participants to relate the information they’ve learned to their own experiences in their daily practice – for example, patient profiling and identifying the ideal patient for a particular drug – they are more likely to absorb that information.

In our meetings, we employ reflective learning to increase knowledge adoption. Before participants arrive, we may ask them to identify their meeting goals and what they hope to learn. We would then ask them to consider their responses again at the end of the meeting, with questions like: “Did you fulfil your goals, and how are you going to apply what you’ve learned today to your daily practice?” This reflection encourages participants to really think about what they’ve learned and the value it will have in their daily work.

Didactic Presentations with a Twist

While we try to limit them, we recognize that there is still a place for didactic presentations in our business. To encourage and maximize participant engagement, we approach them in a different way than the traditional model. Rather than having one person speaking on a topic, we might change it up by holding rapid-fire sessions with several different subject matter experts. That same subject still gets covered, but by different voices, viewpoints and personalities speaking in shorter timeframes. This succeeds in holding the attention of participants and keeps them interested in learning about the subject matter.

As experts in live meeting development and execution, we know how important it is to employ innovative strategies to engage audiences and encourage learning. And our techniques work. We survey every one of our meetings, and our average score is 4.5/5. By changing up the meeting model, we ensure that no one suffers from drained mind syndrome. From investigator meetings to medical advisory boards, every one of our meetings both engages and informs participants, and fully delivers on our clients’ business goals.