Rethinking Learning at Events: Breaking Free from a Failed Model

Braindate and Rainfocus Insights

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of steering a workshop at RainFocus INSIGHT, engaging with a group of 20 mighty event professionals. Our session, named “Learning at Events: Breaking Free from a Failed Model,” was inspired by my most popular braindate topic across all the events I attend.


As event architects, we’re in the business of crafting learning experiences, whether we label them as such or not. But we often find ourselves recycling the same old educational setups we endured (and didn’t exactly love) from our school days.

In the 30 minute workshop we had at our disposal, I entrusted the participants with the mission of spotlighting these outdated practices and brainstorming how we can shake things up for the better as event professionals. And the results are brilliant! (Thank you Geneviève Ringuet for your help with sensemaking!)

We split into four groups, each tackling a different aspect of the traditional learning model that’s ready for a makeover in the context of events:

1. The Sit-All-Day Syndrome

Group 1 took on the classic classroom setup: sitting for hours on end, standardized tests, and a one-way street of information flow. Sounds familiar? In event land, this translates to attendees zoning out during a marathon of back-to-back sessions. The fix? Mix it up! We talked about breaking the mold with flexible formats, integrating play (yes, adults need recess too!), and designing spaces that encourage movement and interaction.

2. The One-Size-Fits-All Lecture

Group 2 zeroed in on the lack of teaching diversity and personal touch. At many events, we’re still playing the one-teaches-many / sage-on-stage game, often missing the mark on engagement. The consensus? More collaborative sessions, please! Let’s give attendees the reins to drive the content that resonates with them, fostering peer-to-peer learning and meaningful contribution for all the brilliant minds you gather under the same roof.

3. The Missing Link to Real-World Application

Group 3 highlighted the disconnect between content and its real-world application. They suggested that events often miss the mark in meeting attendees’ concrete needs. The solution? Guiding attendees in defining their learning goals before the event, and allowing them to curate an agenda that addresses their unique challenges. 

4. The One-Teaching-Model-Fits-All Fallacy

Lastly, group 4 shed light on our failure to cater to diverse learning needs and backgrounds, and on the lack of consideration for neuro-diverse friendly teaching methods. The solution: more inclusive programming, a variety of content formats, spaces for rest and vulnerable conversations, and networking that doesn’t terrify introverts.

In summary, how can we transform our events into learning environments where attendees feel inspired, connected, and empowered to create?

Here are the groups’ main takeaways:

  • Unlock Collaborative Learning: Foster environments where knowledge sharing and tackling concrete problems thrive.
  • Design for Human Connection: Create spaces that encourage interaction, movement, and play.
  • Offer Flexibility and Choice: Allow attendees to curate their learning journey.
  • Embrace Inclusion and Diversity: Ensure every attendee feels valued, seen, and heard, regardless of their learning style or background.

Anecdotally, these nuggets of wisdom are right up Braindate’s alley, where we’ve been shining for a decade, turning events into transformative learning experiences. We’re always up for a chat with anyone curious about the magic Braindate can bring to the table!

Here’s to creating events that redefine what great learning looks like! And to the Mighty 20 I collaborated with at INSIGHT—thank you for proving that when great minds come together, the potential for innovation is limitless.

How are you breaking free and innovating at your events? We want to learn from you – talk to our team.

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