6 Steps to a Successful Continuing Education Live Event
What do you want learners to take away from a live continuing education (CE) event? If you’re like most providers, you hope they learn something valuable that they can apply in the real world. How do you ensure that actually happens?
According to a recent Ashfield white paper, The Science of Meetings, which draws on survey responses from health professionals, learners attend your events for a variety of reasons:
- Learning how the latest research might impact their work
- Meeting expert practitioners in their field
- Discovering new products that might help them in the workplace
- Networking with other professionals
- Exposing themselves to a breadth of educational content
- Completing the requisite number of credit hours
If you’re a CE provider, you want to make sure your live events help learners check all of those boxes – especially those relating to research and educational content.
A formula for successful live events
While the Ashfield white paper focuses on all kinds of professional meetings, not just CE events, the insights it provides are still extremely relevant for CE providers. One planning strategy the paper proposes is a six-step “holistic solution” for achieving a measurable impact on learner performance in the workplace:
- Collect data: Deploy surveys, evaluations, and tools that capture participation data.
- Uncover insights from your data: Analyze the data you collect for insights about participation, perception, and impact.
- Personalize the experience: Using the insights you’ve gathered, enhance your CE live event experience with various learner personas in mind.
- Connect with experts: If you need to hire others to help you rethink your events, bring them in. It’s a team effort.
- Plan a seamless experience for all participants: With data and input from experts, you can plan exactly the type of live events your learners want to experience.
- Craft a story around the event to create intrigue: You want learners to be excited about your events! Leverage technologies that help set expectations and encourage learners to attend.
In our experience, these six steps illustrate a solid approach to CE live event planning and help you deliver events that have a real impact on learners. Let’s dig in and take a closer look at each step.
1. Collect data
The first step to creating more impactful live events to start learning about your learners.
There are a variety of ways to collect learner data. Having learners complete an evaluation following your event is one. Another is sending all attending learners a post-activity outcomes survey to see how they’re applying newly attained knowledge during the weeks or months after an event.
You should also be generating reports on registration numbers for different events and comparing learner participation across various activities, live or otherwise. A learning management system for continuing education can help you collect all of this data, including registration by event and participant type. The software should also enable you to automate evaluation and survey processes.
2. Uncover insights from your data
Data isn’t very useful if you don’t analyze it! Using your participation data, evaluations, and survey responses, make an effort to discover:
- Which events draw the most attendees (and which don’t)
- What learners loved about an event
- What they didn’t like about the event
- Whether they found the content relevant and valuable
- If your speakers are effectively presenting the material
- Opinions on different event venues
- Whether learners were satisfied by your registration and payment procedures
- What learners wanted to get out of the event vs. what they actually got out of it
- If the content has changed how learners do their jobs
- Whether the content has had a positive impact on learners’ work
- Opinions about the overall experience (e.g. registering, finding the venue, participating in the event, networking, etc.)
You’ll use these insights to start building a live event experience that delivers exactly what learners need and has the impact you want it to have. Speaking of meeting learner needs…
3. Personalize the experience
Tailor your events to the appropriate learner personas. The strongest persona is a hypothetical learner with a highly specific professional background and personal traits that contribute to how he or she learns. Each persona will also have a name.
When you start using learner personals, you and your colleagues will be asking questions like:
- Would Dr. Roswell be able to apply this knowledge to help her patients?
- Does Dr. Evan’s background lend itself to active participation in this type of event?
- Can we modify anything about this event to help people like Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Hawthorne , who are here to network and meet experts?
Ultimately, you’re trying to tailor events to your learners’ behavioral patterns, professional goals, attitudes and opinions, learning styles, and background experiences. The more you know about your audience, the more relevant, engaging, and impactful your live events will be.
If you’re developing personas for the first time, usability.gov has an excellent personas primer that will help you get started.
4. Connect with experts
It takes a team of motivated, knowledgeable planners to create successful live events. If you’re determined to act on the insights you’ve gathered from learner data, you don’t want to go it alone. Collaborate with colleagues or bring in third parties as needed.
Part of “connecting with experts” is also making sure your learners have an opportunity to connect with eminent speakers and practitioners. Strive to bring in the best people to plan your events and to lead them.
5. Plan a seamless experience
The content of a live event is only part of the experience. The other part is what happens before and after the event, including the registration and request for credit processes.
You want to help your learners select relevant, valuable CE live events without a hitch and receive credit immediately following attendance. To that end, consider investing in learning management tools that:
- Make it easy to find the right events. Ideally, learners will have access to an online calendar for live events. They should be able to determine, at a glance, which events fit their schedule and offer the best learning opportunities.
- Simplify registration. Registering should be a cinch. Ensure that learners can register for an event straight from the online calendar and pay by credit card.
- Automate requests for credit. With the right software, you can verify attendance and process credit requests right away with minimal administrative involvement.
6. Craft a story around the event
“Dr. Smith will present a slide deck on sepsis” isn’t quite as alluring as “Watch Dr. Smith wrangle with a nasty hospital-borne infection and come out on top.”
To be sure, “crafting a story” doesn’t have to mean dictating the actions of speakers to fit a narrative (although it certainly can mean that!). A big part of it is event marketing. You want to attract enough attention from potential learner-attendees to fill every seat at your event, and a compelling story can help you do that.
You’ll need a platform for telling that story, though, which is where your learning management system comes in. Be sure there’s a way to provide learners with a meaningful synopsis of what they will experience during an event. The event calendar or catalog feature of your software should help you do just that.
No two live events are the same…
…so take a measured approach to planning each one! With consistent, active data analysis and a willingness to build the best possible experience for learners, you’re bound to deliver some truly fantastic live events.
It certainly won’t happen overnight – and you might even need to invest in new tools – but the payoff is worth it: more engaged learners, higher attendance, active participation, and potential to grow.