I wrote a while ago about the issue with Social Media events being that they aren’t Social. I suggested a few reasons why this is – but they really boiled down to two core problems:

  1. Ego
  2. Ego

Ego in the first instance is like speakers like to hear themselves talk, and Ego in the second instance is that we love to say we heard ‘so and so’ speak. (Thank you, Jeff Jarvis, for inspring me to tell the truth, and use the word Ego here.) Unfortunately, these aren’t conducive to effective learning.

Cue the above image, that Josh Chandler keenly pointed out to me (thanks Josh) which displays some very pertinent statistics on our discussion of social events. (Josh informs me he got this from Social Media Examiner, so thanks to them.)

In short: if you are interested in creating an attendee-centric event that places the attendee’s learning as the priority (and I plee with you to do so), then you’ll realise that after 2 weeks, if you attendees just hear talks they will only remember 20% of what they heard. But if you get them to discuss it immediately, they will remember 70% of what they say. This isn’t new – Edgar Dale did this research back in ’69 – but one thing is sure, the higher up the scale you go, the less broadcast you are, and the more social you become.

Of course, this means you have fewer attendees, and more participants. As Anne Marie says, Learning Is Social.

In shorter: People remember 20% of what they hear and 70% of what they say. We don’t let people say, because of our egos. We love our own voices too much. Attendee-centric events let attendees say, and turn attendees into participants.

The shortest: Let attendees be participants.

Confession: I’m still failing at this. With the last Like Minds, we were still around the 30% – 50% area, except for the Like Minds Lunches, which were discussions and took us into the 70% bracket, but only for a short period. For our next outing (I’ll share the news with you this week), we are aiming to spend a lot more time in the 70% backet.

Thanks also go to Jeff Hurt and Dave Lutz, whose blog Midcourse Corrections I again recommend as a great source for anybody designing events of any kind. In fact, you can catch a free webinar with Jeff today, which you can get details for here.

Your Leading Thoughts

I value your thoughts, as leaders in your areas. Use these questions as a guide for comments below:

  1. If we are talking about being virtually present, where do you think that sits on the scale? How can Social Media facilitate this?
  2. What events have engaged you on the higher percentage of that scale? What did they do in order to do it?
  3. What are the challenges to breaking from the ‘Verbal Receiving’ area?

Archived Comments

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    I guess it also depends on the outcome(s) of the event. very few of the events I’ve spoken or facilitated at have had an outcome of ‘improved learning’. Inspiration – yes. Entertainment – yes. Motivation – yes. Raising awareness – yes etc. But not learning.

    Educating is a realm in which I have little experience or qualification. It’s the realm of those who are charged with transferring large amounts of content. You could call it ‘broadcasting with a purpose’.

    Just keen that I understand what the real focus is here.

    Please feel free to educate me. ;)

    Best, Robin

    And Scott, thank you for the amazing input you have planted into our community that reads radsmarts. :)

  • / Scott Gould


    Good point. Exceptional in fact. Here’s the reality: most conferences aren’t increasing learning.

    I’m not talking about content here. There’s plenty of that. What I mean is distinctly, learning, so that someone goes away having learnt stuff, not just heard it.

    The virtual equivalent of what I’m trying to achieve is the blog with valuable comments. Should we just have blog posts that inspire – or ones that increase learning?

    And thank you for your kind words – it’s a pleasure contributing :-)

  • http://twitter.com/VelChain Dave Lutz

    Scott, thanks for mentioning our blog and Jeff’s webinar today! Funny, when I started studying your graphic, I was thinking…Jeff Hurt has a slide that is very similar to Scott’s example for his presentation today.

    I really love Anne Marie’s comment “Of course, this means you have fewer attendees, and more participants.” We’ll be borrowing that one.

    Keep striving for the 70%. Not many conferences are able to push the envelope like you are with Like Minds.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Dave

    Thanks for the kind words. I have been so inspired by you and Jeff that I can definitely say it is changing Like MInds, and in turn, as other conferences are using some of what we’re doing, it is slowly changing the shape of learning across the UK and Europe at least!

    That comment on fewer attendees and more participants is actually mine – I decided last year that at Like Minds we would have no attendees who just passively sit and listen. Every time I call them “participants” it convicts me (often because I’m not giving them room to participate)

    I’m striving – not just for 70%. With Like MInds next month, we’re pushing for 90% :-)

  • http://twitter.com/GaryDayEllison Gary Day-Ellison

    I wonder how many events are self-confident enough to encourage discussion beyond agreement/endorsement? I don’t mean undermining or random dissent/nuisance – but a willingness to see the value of considered challenge to some assumptions.

  • / Scott Gould

    It is hard, Gary, because we traditionally put content on the pedestal, and anything that distracts from content is cut out.

    To make this work, you have to be prepared to have less fame.

  • http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/ Adrian Segar

    I’m going to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet again. Oh well. The attendee-driven Conferences That Work I’ve been running for the last 18 years are typically 60-70% discussion. That’s what participants typically choose, and so that’s what they get.

    It’s really hard to overcome about 1,500 years of cultural conditioning about how we “should” learn. But it can be done.

  • / Scott Gould

    Adrian – I still have your book on my wishlist and haven’t bought it yet – forgive me!

  • http://twitter.com/PolderPommie Alexander Taylor

    It’s an interesting conundrum. I think you will always have attendees; just think of the quiet kid in school, who just listens and churns out top marks. There are people that want to be passive observers. Then there’s the attendant that does all his participation in the coffee corner.
    On the other hand, there is a group that is far more open to discourse and debate than it was. They have an opinion, and rather than telling their neighbour, they’ll tell the world. They are vocal and are more accepting of criticism. They relish confrontation (and even polarisation, at times, as you’ve noted before!).
    Obviously there are far more categories than that; it’s a broad strokes thing. But one does not necessarily have to exclude the other.

    One way of stimulating participation over attendance that I’ve found effective, is to include a registration requirement for a short bio, specific learning points and a number of key questions they want to ask or points they would want to bring across. Divide everyone into a number of groups (at random, and include speakers and organisers, also at random!) and have the groups come together once a day to discuss their views on what they’ve heard. Everyone gets 1 or 2 minutes (I recommend small groups of about 5 people, but larger can work). I’ve never seen a session without some form of heated discussion or debate.


  • / Scott Gould

    Sure – there will always be those who are quiet – which is fine. And your categories are pretty right on I think.

    I do like your ideas – will give this some good thought about making it happen!

    How do you think we can do this virtually?


  • http://www.twitter.com/joshchandler Josh Chandler


    I am so glad you found some value out of it. It amazed me that someone had really clearly set out our social values and how we learn in such an interesting manner. I can’t believe you translated one infographic into a perfectly constructed piece of writing.

    For those of you in those comment thread who think they’ve attended a great conference, be sure to always compare it to this graph. Honestly, I went through a bunch of events I attended lately and none of them really hit 50%.

    For those of you who’ve read my posts on conferences, you’ll know I 100% back Scott’s points on improving conferences and events.

  • http://www.twitter.com/joshchandler Josh Chandler


    In answer to the following question:
    “What are the challenges to breaking from the ‘Verbal Receiving’ area?”

    I would say that the challenge is how we continually educate others about transitioning a offline method (broadcast) into a digital method (social). If we think that the discussion on making change is truly over, we just have to look at the archives of Scott’s blog to realise companies still don’t get it.

    I’d like to see also how companies use crowd-sourcing during live events to make attendees feel like it’s their show. If a panel utilised a Twitterfall screen more actively during a talk, they could not only answer questions but also change up the pace of the discussion based on real-time audience feedback.

    I don’t think enough conference organisers appreciate just how little they know. By involving attendees in their planning beforehand, they could also create dynamic content (perhaps crowdsourced through a public Google Wave document).

    Interesting potential. I am sure others can help me elaborate. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Josh

    Thanks for the kind words. To be honest, these thoughts have been knocking around my mind for a while, with inspiration from those I mentioned in the post as well as others.

    It’s true though – we have to get out of slopping around broadcasting information people at conferences like they are attendee cattle. Someone has to have the balls to say NO and start doing it differently.

    Looking forward to moving forward with you!

  • / Scott Gould

    Thanks for the thoughts Josh.

    Virtual, in my mind, not only augments the event itself in the spheres of space and matter, but it extends the event in time. In other words, virtual enables the event to begin before it begins well in advance.

    This time before an event isn’t just another place to push and broadcast information. It is time for attendes, or participants, to begin engaging with the content and each other. It enables us to begin the discussion far in advance – and actually crowd source the content – allowing us to curate from what people are talking about.

    You’re right – we don’t know how little we know. I have to continually challenge myself to learn from others and realise that in too many ways we are still just doing the same old same old.

    It’s a fight to innovate.

  • http://www.conorneill.com Conor

    I am a big fan of TED. I have watched lots of great speeches and have my list of top speeches on my blog. Recently I saw a speech by a Buddhist lama “The Kampala”. At first I felt let down by his talk… no big ideas, no hyped performance, just a humble human being sharing a story of when he was young… but the following day I thought – that is the most powerful talk I have seen – the only TED talk where the audience feel “bigger” after the talk, rather than impressed by the speaker (but inside feeling smaller).

    I have taught MBAs for 7 years. I have given over 50 seminars to companies. I have been moving slowly from “the most important person in the room” to realise that I must be “the least important person in the room” if learning is the goal. My goal for the first 4 years was to “look good, important, knowledgeable, in-control”… my goal now is to take the participants on a journey that leads them to their own realisation of knowledge. Educare (latin), effectively means “to bring out that which is within”.

    Sometimes I have to look out of control, leave people frustrated, turn their problems back to them… effectively not look “good, important, in-control”. It is a hard shift, but these are the classes that people remember years later.

    Thanks for articulating and structuring this area of my own rambling thoughts ;-) Conor

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Conor

    I love what you’re saying here. I totally agree, of course, that we should focus our attention on those who are there and their learning, rather than our own ego.

    Most people do seek to impress, rather than seek to be impressed, or so the saying goes.

    I’ll have to check out that Buddhist TEDTalk :-)

  • http://www.conorneill.com Conor

    My mistake… He is The Karmapa rather than Kampala… but here is the video:

  • Anonymous

    This reminds me of a Robert Kiyosaki conference I attended. Every ten minutes or so he’d say, “Discuss with your partner,” because he said we learn much more if we talk about what we’ve heard and integrate it into our thoughts.
    When I did a Master of Teaching, I learned that we learn best in groups, when we chat with our classmates and learn together.
    How would this work online? I learn a lot online but I don’t always want to discuss my personal life online, so perhaps taking it off into private forums would work.
    Robin knows a bit about this area :)
    A blast from the past: http://www.radsmarts.com/2009/12/room-filling-the-last-thing-a-post-internet-leader-does


  • / Scott Gould

    THanks Conor, and thanks again for commenting. Stick around :-)

  • / Scott Gould


    Thanks for the comments. That post by Robin – can’t believe it’s a year ago! – is one of his best and constantly informs me and my direction.

    Jeff Hurt and Dave Lutz – jeffhurtblog.com – are excellent on this group learning.