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From Virtual to Live: What is Microlearning and What Has It Taught Us?


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You may be scratching your head and wondering why I am talking about microlearning. Isn’t this something that people in the education field have to worry about, not events? We beg to differ. 


Since the event industry was flipped upside down and turned virtual, we have had to change a lot of our ways, plan differently, and teach differently at our events. Virtual events have come a long way in a short period of time in regards to the ways we can connect with our audience, but in turn, it has changed how attendees engage with our event’s information. Now, it’s time to take those learnings and apply them to live events


I always revert back to the goldfish statistic: The attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. That's one second more than the average attention span of human beings at 8 seconds, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. In addition, professionals check their email 15 times per day, or every 37 minutes, and their mobile device 52 times every day. It’s safe to say that there are plenty of distractions to work around as we plan our events. 


With all of this distraction going on, it’s no surprise that humans have started to learn new ways to digest information. 


Microlearning Graphics


Think about where you get most of your news and new information nowadays. I doubt it is from long novels or courses you are taking - although that is never a bad way to learn. I guarantee it’s something you found as you surf your favorite social media apps, news platforms, and YouTube channels. Believe it or not, this is microlearning at work! Your brain is now trained to look for the fastest path to new information.


Considering all of this, how can you keep your attendee’s attention in a world full of distractions? To start, it’s important to know exactly what microlearning is. 


What is microlearning? 

By definition, microlearning is taking an idea and stripping it down into its most essential parts for your consumer. The goal is to only teach the things they need to know and keep the content highly-focused and made up of bite-sized exercises. In doing so, your content comes out shorter, quicker, and sharper than your traditional presentation style. 


This bite-sized learning trend encourages content that is highly-engaging and interactive, such as short videos and pop quizzes, all with the goal to get important information to a larger audience in a way that is easy to digest and easy to remember. 


When you think of microlearning, think of these 3 key parts: 


  • Length of Time

Trim that presentation down! All of the fluff and pleasantries go out the window when it comes to microlearning. A typical piece of micro-content can be presented in 7 minutes or less. Sounds pretty daunting, right?


  • Focus

Keep the focus on one piece of information that you want delivered. If your goal is for attendees to leave knowing how to braid hair, then only focus on how that is done, not the history of braided hair, why you are talking about it, the perks of braiding your hair, the varieties of braiding get my point. Keep your eye on the prize.


  • Variety

The beauty of microlearning is the ability to use a variety of delivery modes for your content. I always encourage the use of videos, interactions, games, polls & surveys, and short lessons. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and try new things!

How can I use microlearning at my events?

Time to put all of this into practice. 


As it turns out, virtual events have been a major learning experience for event planners and presenters. Where certain activities and content excelled in live events, they would not hit the mark in virtual events.


Some of those include: 

  • Long one-sided sessions
  • Sessions with little to no attendee interaction
  • Fluff-content with minimal takeaway


To keep your future live events exciting and engaging, consider implementing microlearning across your sessions. Check out these best practices to learn how:


Keep it Short and Sweet

As the name implies, microlearning sessions are short. So short, in fact, that they should be able to be kept under 5 to 7 minutes. However, this does not mean that your session should be 5 to 7 minutes long. 


Microlearning Graphics


As you plan your session, first identify your “must-learn” piece of information. This should be the main takeaway of your presentation and what attendees should walk away with to ponder further. I will refer to this as the “golden nugget” from now on. 


Here’s where microlearning comes in. You need to consider two things: does my audience already know about this subject or “golden nugget”? Or, is this a totally new concept to them? 


Scenario One:

If this is a whole new concept to your audience, use your first 5-7 minutes to educate them clearly and concisely on your “golden nugget”. For example, your presentation can be about how to incorporate more oranges into your diet. Your audience may know a lot about fruits, but they have never tried oranges. In this case, you would start your session off by introducing yourself and your session, and then dive right in to what oranges are, where they come from, and their taste and smell. Then, the rest of your session can be focused on teaching them how to incorporate them into their diet. Your “golden-nugget” has been identified, taught, and made clear during the time when your audience is most captive. That is microlearning. 


Scenario Two:

If your audience is already well-versed on oranges, you can take those first 5-7 minutes to introduce your interactive session where the audience takes turns sharing their favorite dishes that incorporate oranges. The key here is to use this time to state the goal of the session, the directions, and answer any questions. If your audience has additional questions about oranges, you can always include links for them to use after your session is complete. That is also microlearning. 


They key takeaways of these two scenarios are:


  1. You are addressing your “golden nugget” right off the bat and giving the audience what they want. 
  2. You are keeping your teachable moment short and sweet, allowing your audience to absorb it with little resistance. 
  3. You are cutting out the unnecessary fluff of your presentation, which will keep your audience’s attention for longer. 


Keep Your Content Fresh

Technology is already on your side, so use it to your advantage. Incorporating a multitude of learning tools like videos, quizzes, surveys & polls, and gamification outlets. 


Using interactive elements right off the bat will grab your audience’s attention and reduce the time to learn. In addition, microlearning sessions should be visually appealing and easy to follow. 


Here’s some great examples: 


     1. Learn about the history and anatomy of a surfboard

Screen Shot


     2. Learn about why pasta comes in all shapes and sizes

Screen Shot


     3. Learn about why the pencil is perfect

Screen Shot


They key takeaways of these two scenarios are:


  1. You learn something potentially new in under 4 minutes, but you get the quality of information that would likely take you hours to find. 
  2. The information is easy to digest because it is paired with eye-catching graphics that drive the point further. 
  3. The fluff of the presentation is gone and only relevant information is present. 

Keep Your Tone Light

Have you ever heard the saying: “What you say is not as important as how you say it?”. Makes a little bit of sense, right?


This is especially important in those short, fleeting minutes of your microlearning session. Your tone of voice kicks off your presentation and lets your audience know several things: 


  1. Your sincerity
  2. Your passion and knowledge of the topic
  3. Your ability to speak clearly


If you are delivering a piece of very important information to your audience, you are going to want to make sure you are checking off all three of those boxes and prove that you are the right person to be educating the masses. 


If you start off your presentation frazzled, or monotone, or unenthused, your audience is going to immediately check out. Why even have a session at that point?


So, pick content you are excited and confident about! Take this opportunity to teach people something new, in a way that excites them and makes them want to share with more people. Use those short moments to clearly address your “golden nugget” and then work your magic to continue driving the point. 

Closing Thoughts

It may be an exercise in itself to teach yourself to trim down the fluff and pull out that “golden nugget” of information to teach your attendees. However, in the end, your audience will be more engaged with you, happier with the content they received, and more educated when they walk out of the door. 


As we break back into live events little by little, we must continue to evolve our content and delivery methods. These shining realizations will continue to appear in our old habits and help us reshape the live event industry for the future. It’s important to take these new changes in stride and better ourselves as event planners and educators.


If you are planning an event, be it virtual or live, check out MeetingPlay for all of your event tech needs. Talk to our team about your event options and take a deep dive into our Virtual Event Platform and other tech features. 


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