Lots to Learn


Lots to Learn

Charlotte Preston, one of the industry's education experts, shares the ins and outs of adult education

Adults learn better when they can relate education to their experiences and apply their new knowledge to their daily lives. Charlotte Preston learned these principles from her membership in the American Society of Association Executives and has watched them come true in the education programs she puts together to complement major trade shows.

The brainpower behind seminars at the AGTA GemFair, JCK International Jewelry Shows, AGS Conclave, the Basel Fair and Professional Jeweler'sPrimeTime, Preston always looks for opportunities to combine different learning styles to keep attendees enthusiastic. She's learned to plan agendas that start with simple concepts and move to more complex, specific issues. The more pragmatic a presentation, the more memorable the information: a favorite speaker, Cynthia Marcusson of Cynthia Reneé in Fallbrook, CA, brings real clothing styles, fabric textures and color swatches to her seminars on using fashion to sell jewelry. Preston also knows jewelers are more likely to implement what they've learned at seminars when they carry away a checklist for future reference.

Some sessions are obviously more successful than others. Presentations incorporating theater have been wildly popular, Preston says. One presentation that stands out in her mind is a live demonstration of role-playing techniques used by employees at R.F. Moeller in St. Paul, MN. President Mark Moeller accompanied the lively presentation with a lecture and slides. Controversial topics are always a big draw, Preston says, especially when the speakers on the topic are credible and there's a good dynamic among the commentators. Unless they include a strong moderator, panels generally are not as effective as other seminars because attendees often feel frustrated they can't delve deeply into the topic.

With Touch the Future, a program at the JCK Show in Orlando that uses walk-up "stations" to let retailers wander through the learning process, Preston explores interactive learning. The display has been particularly successful because jewelers spend their days walking around in their stores and, therefore, learn better on their feet instead of sitting in conference rooms.

Learning by hands-on experience also helps retailers retain the knowledge, something Preston first witnessed in an unusual way while working as publications manager for the American Gem Society in the 1980s. "I was in charge of disaster planning, and once a year a person from the fire department would visit, set a fire in the parking lot and make each staff person put out a fire with an extinguisher," she recalls. "When we physically walk the body through something, the body then knows how to react in a time of need. Similarly, when a person uses his or her body to learn a concept, then it's more natural to remember that concept later."

– by Stacey King

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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