The ”Learning Meeting” and Simple Techniques for Participant Involvement

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The ”Learning Meeting” and Simple Techniques for Participant Involvement

  • Ib Ravn and Nina Tange Learning Lab Denmark, Danish School of Edcuation, Aarhus University,

  • MPI PEC-NA, Houston, TX, USA Feb. 3, 2008

1. The Professional Conference: Problems

  • The way it is Drawbacks

  • One-way presentations Most people are two-way

  • Sit and listen Use it or lose it

  • Q and A ”See me!” ”I’m clever, too!”

  • Breakouts Mini-conferences

  • Panels Congestion on One-way Street

  • Networking? You’re on your own!

2. The Empty-Container Model of Learning

3. Learning as Human Co-Flourishing

  • People have potentials, interests, projects. They want to flourish

  • They go to conferences to get inspired by others

  • The conference as a forum for learning, mutual inspiration and human co-flourishing

4. Design Principles for a Learning Meeting

  • .

5. The Design Principles (for your own reading)

  • Concise presentations. Fewer, shorter, more provocative.

  • Active interpretation. There must be processes that help participants actively relate what they hear to their own experience. Time to digest, think and talk.

  • Self-formulation. There must be opportunities in pairs and small groups for people to talk about the personal interests and projects that brought them to the conference in the first place.

  • Networking and knowledge sharing. Facilitated activities that help participants discover each other as resources.

  • Competent facilitation. The facilitator must create a safe and trusting learning atmosphere where people will want to go along with the new learning processes.

6. Research into the Learning Meeting

  • Learning Lab Denmark with Radisson SAS, Nyborg Strand, Odense Congress Center, Hotel Legoland and Danske Bank

  • 18 months. Funded by Danish Ministry of Economics

  • 30 meetings and conferences (100-300 people)

  • Corporate, association, professional education

  • We redesigned the program with meeting planners and coached meeting facilitators

  • Observations and measures of subjective outcomes

7. Learning Techniques Tested

  • Concise presentation: Break it in two. Do it as an interview.

  • Active interpretation: Mini-dialogue. The constructive opening question. Silent reflection. Question cards. The speaker’s cornered.

  • Self-formulation: Participants direct the speaker. Two consultants, free of charge. Participant construction.

  • Networking: Meet people. Six-person tables. Find a new seat. A networking lunch.

8. Research Results

  • Mostly small changes proved possible

  • But they made a big difference

  • Generally, 60-70% of participants were satisfied

  • 5-10% were dissatisfied: “The professional movie theater”

  • Meeting planners and hosts were highly satisfied

  • Mini-meetings almost always successful

  • The facilitator must be attentive, trustworthy and persuasive

  • Progression and variation

  • Kinds of folks that like learning processes…

  • Cultural factors: Danish egalitarianism!!

9. Question for Your Consideration

10. Learning Techniques Used

  • Meet people: Mingle to create a friendly learning space (56)

  • Divorce your colleague: Everyone makes an effort with a stranger (58)

  • Short presentation, or break it in two: Enhances attention (64)

  • Constructive opening question: What inspired you in the presentation?

  • Silent reflection: Jot down your thoughts (70)

  • Mini-dialog: Share with your neighbor (72)

  • Sample the answers: Produces inspiration and energy (76)

  • Speaker’s cornered: Q & A in the lobby minimizes irrelevance (80)

  • How to use today’s input + First steps: Learning and action (86)

11. Task for Triads

  • How can I use this in my own work?

  • Help each other decide on a couple of first steps

  • Think for a minute

  • Form triads

  • Present and get feedback; all of you (taps on glass)

12. Resources on Learning Meetings

  • Steen Elsborg and Ib Ravn: Learning Meetings and Conferences in Practice. People’s Press, Copenhagen, 2007, 92 pp.

  • Ib Ravn and Steen Elsborg: Creating Learning at Conferences Through Participant Involvement (paper with research results,, click Publications)

  • The Learning Meeting Module: Web-supported tool for meeting planners, with facilitator’s manuscript and individualized learning cards for participants (

  • Ib Ravn: The Learning Conference, journal article (

  • Ib Ravn: The Learning Meeting, brief magazine article (, a magazine article)

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