Take Education Beyond Conference Sessions Using the Latest Apps

Enhance and customize the learning experience with new technology.

Every conference attendee brings a plus one: a phone. Although it was once considered taboo to have a cellphone at business meetings, event planners are welcoming the mobile revolution thanks to new shared-learning apps, which help attendees customize the conference experience outside scheduled programming.

“The learning value of events is often not in the formal programming, but in the interactions we have with other attendees and subject matter experts,” said Jeff Cobb, managing director at Tagoras, an educational consulting firm based in Carrboro, North Carolina.

Check out two shared-learning apps that are making waves at events around the world.

Create a Meeting of the Minds

“The power of a discussion can be life-changing,” said Christine Renaud, co-founder and CEO of E-180, the Montréal-based company behind Braindater, a mobile app that facilitates knowledge-sharing meetups between pairs of attendees. “We believe the person sitting next to you at a conference could teach you more than the expert on stage.”

Conference attendees using the Braindater app make “offers” (to share knowledge) or “requests” (to learn), and the app suggests matches for a “brain date” meetup. In the Brain Dating Lounge, a space in the venue that E-180 designs with an event organizer, E-180 matchmakers welcome participants and introduce them to their brain dates.

Montréal, a global hub for information and communications technology, provided a tech-friendly backdrop to test drive the app at the recent creative business summit C2 conference. Attendees enjoyed more than 2,200 brain dates. “Instead of just focusing on titles or companies, attendees connected on things that truly mattered to them,” said Martin Enault, C2’s chief operating officer.

Open the Floor to OpenSpace

Formal schedules filled with compelling sessions are no longer enough. At this year’s ASAE Annual Meeting, the conference’s mobile app included a new feature called OpenSpace, a meetup tool within the app’s Topic Channels discussion forum. Attendees used OpenSpace to propose discussion topics and reserve space in the conference’s designated OpenSpace pods for those discussions.

“I loved how easy it was to get on the app, pitch a topic, grab an open time and get it on the OpenSpace schedule,” said Shelly Alcorn, CAE and principal at Alcorn Associates Management Consulting, a nonprofit and association management consulting firm based in Sacramento, California. Alcorn organized an OpenSpace meetup on the role of associations in education.

Along with the product’s ease of use, there are long-lasting benefits that resonate among conference goers. “The experiential and networking components of a conference, such as OpenSpace, make the educational value of the conference experience sticky … and keep participants excited about coming back for more,” said Rhonda Payne, CAE, ASAE’s chief learning officer.

(Sébastien Roy)