Award-winning expert witness, strategic consultant and professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of “Think Like a Futurist,” “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty” and “Fast >> Forward: How to Turbo-Charge Business, Sales, and Career Growth.” The president and CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, his website is FuturistsSpeakers.com.
Modern executives continue to operate in an environment of growing change and uncertainty, where we’re all being asked to absorb more information and make important decisions with less-perfect information quicker than ever. Noting that demands on our time are growing, attention spans are shrinking and we’re constantly facing new and novel challenges, we need to find more ways to fast-track learning and professional development. As a keynote speaker who trains more than 10,000 business leaders to think like a futurist and adapt to change and uncertainty each year, one thing’s become patently clear over the past two years: That the format of meetings and events needs to radically change to help working professionals get smarter faster about today’s most pressing concerns, and make sense of new trends and technologies more rapidly.
Bearing this in mind, I’ve created a new framework and methodology for evaluating, discussing and contemplating the impact of future trends. Known as POP FUTURE, it offers business leaders of all backgrounds and skill levels — including meeting and event planning — a more fun, fast and engaging way to communicate complex concepts while boosting learning and retention. Challenging us to put today’s most critical business concepts and thought leadership content into a more pop culture-friendly context, it offers a means to make future trends, new innovations and business concepts more approachable and easier to understand. In effect, the POP FUTURE method asks us to leverage creativity, wit, insight and other eye-catching and artistic ways to grab attendees’ attentions — such as by using animated videos, interactive games, short film skits and other creative endeavors to better grab and hold attendees’ attentions; make professional development and corporate training more exciting and approachable, and promote employee engagement.
A form of “micro-learning” — wherein small learning units and brief learning activities help audiences quickly get up to speed on new ideas and innovations — a complete guide to the POP FUTURE method is free to download at our website. It essentially helps you fast-track learning and retention and deliver much-needed information just-in-time when attendees need it. Looking to get your workforce up to speed quickly on breaking topics without having to put them through extended training courses and full-fledged learning curriculums? POP FUTURE can help you get the message across — and communicate an organization’s training manual or market research report’s worth of data and insights in just a matter of minutes.
Mind you: There’s still ample room at meetings and events for deep-dive sessions such as workshops or training seminars to sit alongside POP FUTURE-inspired programs. But in a world of digital transformation, where attendee attention spans have been decimated by the internet and social media, it’s also important to revamp event formats to focus on enhancing attendee interest and participation. Following, you’ll find just a few sample ways that, with minimal cost and legwork, programming and content formats can be tweaked in clever and ingenious ways to better command a crowd’s attention.
Video Guides and Animated Explainers — As a keynote speaker, I can’t underscore the point enough: Stories can be powerful teaching tools, and when looking to communicate concepts, metaphors can serve as an immensely helpful form of mental shorthand. Case in point: It can take as little as 30 seconds for a subject to penetrate and stick in attendees’ minds when you find the right anecdote to share or analogy to use that helps an otherwise complex issue make sense in an everyday context. Quick-hit videos of no more than 3 to 5 minutes can help you turn even traditionally dry topics, such as accountability, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning into must-see set pieces, and promote learning in more rapid and user-friendly fashion.
Interactive Activities and Games — Make no mistake: Information shared from the stage can be powerful. But while listening to an expert present and wax poetic can be informative, hands-on learning and experience are often the most effective teachers. As a meeting and event planner, when building out content plans, think less talk, more action. It pays to build out your schedule with more learning exercises, brainstorming activities and creative challenges. Heightening interactivity and networking opportunities can not only help you keep audiences more active and engaged, it can also help you keep energy levels high, help facilitate making connections and help event attendees learn from others’ ideas and approaches.
Mini-Documentaries and Short Films — Been there, done that: After seeing it a thousand times, attendees are increasingly nonplussed by standard-issue promo pieces and corporate reels. To better engage and connect with viewers, try taking a fresher, more upbeat and creative approach to sharing details about your marketing program or five-year strategic plan that doesn’t seem like a canned infomercial.
Use music videos, comedic skits, behind the scenes looks, making ofs, getting-to-knows, crowd-sourced commentary and game show parodies. When you’re trying to raise awareness or support for an initiative, don’t be afraid to think differently in terms of approach here. Just be sure to lead with a strong hook, whether in the form of humor, urgency, impact, etc. Remember, today’s attendees are increasingly tuning out anything that seems even the least bit skippable.
Business Contests, Entrepreneurial Challenges, Rapid-fire Brainstorming Sessions — Shark Tank-style innovation programs and strategic planning activities that challenge you to role-play your way through real-world scenarios that may unfold in the future are things that impact your organization. Again, think of how you can weave more opportunities to learn by adding things into your event schedule, and how you can incentivize more audience participation by also weaving a healthy sense of competition and good sportsmanship into these programs.
Polls, Panels, Surveys and Open Conversations — Look for more opportunities to have presenters speak with attendees, not at them. Conversation is a two-way street, after all. Possible options might include interactive town hall-style presentations or panels full of audience polls and questions served up on the fly to attendees. Alternately, they can take the form of call-and response activities, online group exercises, custom trivia games geared toward trending topics or quick-hit prototyping sessions and app-based polls or surveys. However you tackle the challenge, just remember: The less time presenters passively present to viewers, and the more they engage in active real-time discussion, the more engaging programs will be from the audience’s perspective.
Graphical Representations and Summaries — No matter how engaging a presenter is, graphics, animations, videos, illustrations and other visual representations can communicate ideas faster than words. What’s more, no matter how poetic you can wax in conversation, imagery is often far easier to grasp and understand at a glance — and can promote more rapid learning and better retention by serving as a helpful form of mental shorthand.
My advice: Leverage charts, graphics and illustrations wherever possible to simplify ideas, make otherwise dense concepts more approachable and give viewers a quick, easy entry path into any given topic.
The bottom line: As a No. 1-ranked futurist keynote speaker and consultant, I work with hundreds of event planners and meeting pros in dozens of industries each year — all of whom are constantly sprinting to help audiences get a better handle on future trends and new innovations. Leveraging the POP FUTURE learning method to enhance events and special occasions, and apply a more creative touch to content programming, can help you quickly send attendee excitement and engagement levels soaring.
Who says everything has to be delivered as a dull PowerPoint presentation, or that learning has to be provided in the form of a talking head expounding at a crowd for 90 minutes straight? POP FUTURE provides an alternate means of teaching subjects that’s way more engaging and exciting for everyday learners — and offers a way to both fast-track knowledge transfer and jazz up any meeting or event today. | AC&F |