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Learning Objectives for Meetings

Learning Objectives Set Expectations for Important Meetings

By Jon Wollenhaupt

Learning Objectives

Clear and well-defined learning objectives give attendees an expectation of the knowledge and skills they should acquire during a conference, meeting, or employee training program.

Clear and well-defined learning objectives give attendees an expectation of the knowledge and skills they should acquire during a conference, meeting, or employee training program.

A Bay Area pharmaceutical company hired us to assist with planning strategy for its annual scientific meeting that brought together research scientists from the company’s three research facilities located in California, the East Coast, and India.

The company was in the early planning stages for the meeting and wanted to develop clearly stated and measurable learning objectives for attendees. The objectives were developed so that a post-meeting questionnaire could evaluate what the research scientists learned and if the meeting was successful in attaining the company’s goals.

The company’s general desired outcomes for the meeting were to energize participants and provide an opportunity for key scientists from the company’s three locations to interact, discuss science, think about the future, get to know each other, and establish alliances that would enable scientific collaboration and successes in new product development.

The learning objectives were to be communicated, before the meeting, to attendees for the following strategic purposes:

  1. Set expectations for the level of information and knowledge attendees were expected to acquire.
  2. Align the meeting with the organization’s business goals.
  3. Provide a focus for the team responsible for developing the meeting’s content.

Clear and Measurable Learning Objectives

Working closely with planning staff, we developed the following learning objectives for the meeting.

After the annual scientific meeting, the company’s research scientists will be able to do the following:

  • Explain the process for implementing new research.
  • Name three new colleagues with whom you met who can collaborate on your research.
  • List three reasons why you agree with the research funding for the coming year that was presented during the meeting.
  • List the three most significant things you learned in the poster sessions.
  • Describe the positive effects internal scientific collaboration has on company culture and success.
  • Describe how company research successes came about and why.

Based on the learning objectives for the meeting, we worked with staff to develop a post-meeting questionnaire that assessed participants’ learning. Examples of objectives included:

  • I feel confident that I can influence research within my role in the R&D organization. Please circle a number that best reflects your response.
    5 = Strongly Agree, 4 = Agree, 3 = Neutral, 2 = Disagree, 1 = Strongly Disagree
  • Identify two or three things you learned about future research ideas in the poster session. (Open-ended)
  • Identify three major accomplishments the company attained that you learned about in the poster session. (Open-ended)
  • List the three reasons why you agree with the research funding for the coming year. (Open-ended)
  • Name three new colleagues with whom you met at the meeting, and list at least one way you will collaborate with each on your research in the coming year. (Open-ended)
  • What I learned from the presentations I will be able to use in my work and with colleagues. Circle the number that best reflects your response.
    5 = Strongly Agree, 4 = Agree, 3 = Neutral, 2 = Disagree, 1 = Strongly Disagree

Taking Measurement to the Next Level: Application and Implementation

If a company wanted to go to the next level of measurement, it could also establish clearly stated application and implementation objectives for a meeting, marketing initiative, or employee training program. In our pharmaceutical company example, the company could have decided to also measure behavioral changes that were made — after the meeting — as a result of the meeting’s content. This level of measurement would have required an additional questionnaire to be sent out a few months after the attendees returned to work, once the behavioral changes had a chance to take hold. Application and implementation assessment would have allowed the company to assess the positive effect the meeting had on important business measures such as research innovation, productivity, and new product development. What follows are some examples of measurable application and implementation objectives that could have been developed for the scientific meeting.

Within one year after the meeting, we expect to find the following outcomes:

  1. Within the first month after the meeting, participants will create collaborative research teams composed of scientists and engineers that attendees met at the annual scientific meeting.
  2. Within three months, new collaborative teams will establish new processes to meet research deadlines.
  3. Within six months, each newly formed collaborative team will submit two new research proposals.
  4. Within one year, each new collaborating team will introduce at least one new product concept for review and potential development.

The Phillips ROI Methodology

The methodology for developing learning objectives for important meetings discussed in this article was developed by Jack Phillips, Ph.D., Founder and Chairman, The ROI Institute. For more information on the Phillips ROI Methodology, please visit the ROI Institute.

Learning Objectives

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