The teacher/student methodology of learning for adults is gone. Dead. Passe. 

With ever distracting technologies vying  for the meeting participant's attention and time, shouldn't you try and make it work for you? It isn't just about getting the attendee's attention, it is about keeping it throughout the duration of the meeting. 

Shawna Suckow, Founder & President of the Senior Planners Industry Network, states, "Return On Attention (ROA) is a fairly new term. Installing elements of collaboration is a requirement these days and speakers who don't realize and address this will become extinct. We learn best by getting involved with the content, not just hearing about it." 

Here are 10 ways to engage attendees at your next meeting, conference or trade show: 

  1. Make sure the speaker allows plenty of time for Q & A. 

    In fact, if they are using PowerPoint presentation equipment, there is a general feeling in the industry that less is more. Use only 10 slides, large visuals and minimal text. This gives a lot of time to address audience queries. 

  2. Break up into small problem solving clusters. 

    Break up into groups of 4-6 individuals. Rent iPads and allow for mind mapping or brainstorming applications that will help the group solve the problem at hand. 

  3. Use Audience Response System rentals to constantly poll your attendees. 

    Because this system is fast and anonymous, attendees can "speak their mind" without being directly identified. 

  4. Speakers can ask this question: "What do you expect to learn in the next hour?"

    Facilitators can write down the responses, ask people to respond via Twitter (using the event's hashtag) or just verbally address what attendees want to learn as they answer the presenter. 

  5. "Why are you here?" is another great question to ask attendees to get the conversation started.
  6. Begin with some entertainment to get participants laughing or smiling.

    Hiring a local comedian or singer can get your attendees loose and happy to be at your conference. The more people laugh and smile, the more likely they are to be engaged.  

  7. Ask your presenters to tweet to attendees – well before the session. 

    Having your speakers carrying on a conversation with attendees before the conference should help the speaker get to know the attendees and what subjects and/or trends they are interested in learning more about. 

  8. Rather than cursing social channels, use them to your advantage. 

    Give time for presenters, speakers and attendees to interact with each other through any social medium that makes sense to them. Make time in the program for the speaker to check the social chatter and alter their presentation accordingly. 

  9. Set up the room for better networking. 

    Diagram the room for maximum networking options. Ask the venue if they have stored furniture that might be used to create small groups. Once the room diagram is set, obtain buy-in from your caterer, speakers, and the organization you are renting audio visual equipment from. 

  10. Don't overset the room with tables and chairs. 

    Remember, you want to make the room look comfortable, cozy and inviting. A large, overset room gives off none of that vibe. 

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