speaker addressing audience at professional association meeting

As a journalist, I have the privilege of attending a variety of events, meetings and professional development activities.

Normally, I find myself feeling empathetic for others in attendance as I watch them fight to keep their eyes open. I remember not everyone had the luxury of learning how to train their body to stay awake hours upon hours while watching PowerPoint slideshows at basic training. 

I never thought I would express my gratitude for that but, “Thank you, U.S. Army.”

Nonetheless, the point of this post is that no gathering should make its attendees want to fall asleep. Is the audience really learning or taking anything away at that point? Doubtful. 

Even most of the military branches’ top dogs have recently announced plans to reevaluate or move away from tedious mandatory training typically completed by service members via computer. 

“One of the complaints is we’re doing all this mandatory training,” Army Secretary Mark Esper told the Army Times in December. “And when you look at the numbers, it is astounding how much it has grown over the years.”

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He recalled his experience as a battalion commander with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy.

“I felt that I had, again, great freedom to do what I wanted to do. I felt that I was trusted to train my soldiers, and I was accountable for it,” he said.

A few weeks back I went to some professional development sessions for business owners during Small Business Week.  

Right away I could tell the annual event, which is hosted by the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center and the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, was going to be more enjoyable than most.

And no, it wasn’t because of the muffins that were larger than my hand; however, that was a nice touch. 

Almost immediately, we were broken into three groups and shuffled to our first of three 20-minute workshops on emerging business trends. The lessons included interesting videos, a cybersecurity game and a body scan activity. 

I originally planned on staying for two of the workshops but ended up staying for the third because I was enjoying myself and learning useful information. 

The body scan and mindfulness lecture taught by Kaiser Permanente Colorado really resonated with me, and I have since started practicing the activity daily. I have to say it was a job well done by the business center, because the training definitely left an impression.

Lastly, I can’t help but give some kudos to my own workplace. 

When I learned about a mandatory event during my first week on the job, I’ll just say I wasn’t looking forward to it. That’s mainly because of all the boring events I’ve had to attend in the past. 

But that wasn’t the case when it came to our Rising Stars celebration.

You want to know how you get people excited? A drumline performance. 

It was unforgettable, as was watching all the young professionals dance their way to the stage to music they personally selected. 

Needless to say, I had a blast and can’t wait to go next year.

And while I know not all events could possibly include a drumline or even music, that doesn’t mean they need to stick to the same recipe. Businesses and organizations shouldn’t hesitate to try new things — especially to keep the younger professionals interested. 

Just as many schoolteachers now use tablets in their classrooms, people should adapt to their audience and the way they engage.