Friday, December 06, 2013

Best Audience Sizes For Optimum Interaction and Learning

I have the good fortune of meeting and learning from hundreds of customers every year and listen to their human capital management needs. Some times I meet them at their offices. Sometimes I meet them in settings of about 30 people. A few times a year I meet them at conferences and speak with them during breaks.

The most optimum audience sizes, in my opinion, is about 20-30 people representing multiple customers. The optimum setting is when they are in a room for an extended period of time, usually about 2 days. My company's Max Attention events and the recently concluded SuccessFactors Seminars are modeled for such interaction. Customers may believe that conversations that focus only on their companies products, landscape, and problems are the best way to learn about solutions to their problems. That may not be the case. Going to a small event away from their office, where they can interact meaningfully with experts from the field and other customers is a better way to learn about solutions to their problems.

I realized that this optimum number is not a coincidence. According to research, 24 students is the optimum class size for any classroom. Malcom Gladwell talks about this in his recent book David and Goliath.

A large class, compared to more personalized coaching, is usually thought to be a “disadvantage” for pupils, and smaller class sizes and personal tutoring are assumed to be better. Surveying studies, Gladwell says that though really big classes are a problem, there is a happy medium, and smaller classes or more personalized coaching don’t necessarily lead to better outcomes. This is because the students do not just learn from the teacher. The students also learn from each other.

Going to a very large conference is not always better than medium sized events. Large conferences have relatively less formal public interaction compared to smaller events.

I personally like the medium sized events such as ASUG, Wispubs Seminars and SAP Max Attention events where I get to interact and discuss problems of multiple customers in the same room and hear them share information with each other. I do not enjoy the conferences where I am forced to stay on the podium in front of 200+ people and just convey the message. That is less fun.


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