Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May 2000 Current Issue
May 2000 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP


Choosing the best delivery method for your training program

To meet or not to meet? That is the question asked by many managers today. Is it more effective, efficient or faster to fly everyone cross-country for three days? Would it be better to develop a Web site, video or manual to deliver the information or training? Long the mainstay for communications and training, the classroom environment is not the automatic choice it once was.

Deciding not to have a meeting will not endanger your job. Planners still play important roles in the process. You have access to two caches of valuable information: profiles of speakers and experts who can develop content, and the demographics of the target audience. Planners also can use their logistical skills to plan the production and status meetings that will be needed for the project.

Here are pros and cons of various delivery methods.

 Meetings. Nothing can replace the excitement, inspiration and teamwork found at a live event, and a meeting is hands-down the best choice for some situations, such as problem-solving. Yet, when presented at a meeting, information has only one life. It is not reusable unless another medium (videoconferencing, CD-ROM, Internet, paper) also is employed.

Also, meetings can have negative effects. Many attendees are meetings-weary and are drawn toward more self-directed study, especially when learning complex material.

 Recordings. Video and audio recordings still are the standbys of self-directed learning. Often, they are supplemented with printed manuals or offered on CD-ROMs. These media can supplement a meeting or stand alone.

Because these methods are passive and easy to use, however, some audiences find them uninspiring; you might need to add incentives to encourage use. Another drawback is that an instructor is not readily available.

 Web. The Internet is great for luring adults into learning environments. Information is updated easily, and interactivity can be offered through games, quizzes and e-mail links to an instructor.

One downside is that all members of the target audience might not have access. Also, the time and money required to establish a Web site can eat up a budget.

 Print. The least expensive delivery system, printed materials can be used repeatedly and are appropriate for most audiences. The information cannot be updated easily, though, and does not offer a feedback element.

Of course, other factors help determine which path is the right one. Look at the objectives and the message, the audience and its learning styles, and the costs.

Beware of the manager who comes to you with the delivery system already defined. Instead, ask, “Which systems will readily and economically meet the objectives?” For example, online and recorded programs and print media all deliver illustrations or demonstrations. But if the purpose is to allow students to practice taking medical histories, then all of these will fall short.

Next, understanding adult learning is key in selecting the best delivery system. Adults like information that applies directly to them and their work settings. Many prefer to learn by doing rather than by observing or listening. Self-directed students are well-served by an online format, where they can learn at their own pace. Other personalities prefer the classroom setting, where learning is built on interaction and feedback.

The program’s cost can be measured in dollars and time. You must decide which is more important: the time frame or the budget restraints.

Once these elements are factored in, the best delivery system for your audience should be obvious.

Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP, is an independent meeting planner based in Atlanta.

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