Over our time running Tea and Technology events we’ve learnt quite a bit about how our attendees like to interact and learn.
We thought we’d share some practical lessons that can be useful for everyone - whether you are a grandchild helping a grandparent or someone running a session for a group of seniors.
Be respectful of time. There is an assumption that as you get older you have more time to do things. The opposite can quite often be true. Many seniors are juggling a lot including their own personal interests, responsibilities caring for someone and managing their own health. Being respectful and understanding of this and its impact on time is a general good practice for us all.
Advise attendees to bring important information. For example if you are running a session on smart devices and apps, then make sure that the attendees bring their App Store password or that they have their email address.
Manage the pace of the session. This is quite a tricky one. We pack a lot into our Tea and Technology events and have reached a good medium where attendees overwhelmingly feel like they have learnt something and the time spent together has been valuable.
Consider volume and sight. We had a wonderful attendee once point out that we needed to talk slower as she could look at our lips. It was a great reminder for us. In a group session, we also make sure we do our best to repeat each question or comment and always use a microphone.
Change your attitude from a “Fixer” to a “Coach”. Wherever possible let the participant carry out the instructions regardless of their speed. Taking over the device and "I'll do it for you" is not the right approach as it doesn’t encourage learning. If you need to do something then either wait for permission or ask in a considered approach - "Would you like me to help you with that?".
Resolve any technology issues and room logistics. This is basic event planning but make sure you have tested the microphone, internet, iPad or computer you are presenting from before attendees arrive. There may be some things out of your control such as the acoustics in the room, however minimising the possible issues helps with the flow of the event.
Encourage feedback and conversation. We like to break up our voices with the audience. It makes it a far more engaging and interesting event. Find out what they would like to get out of the time together and don’t be scared to prompt for feedback throughout the session. Our best events are the ones where we have lots of questions and conversation.
Understand that other topics may come up. This one goes against a structured lesson plan, but we find that allowing questions to be asked means that topics come up that aren’t strictly on the lesson or event plan. Sometimes you will need to address things individually if it is a group session but often the topic is interesting to everyone. Allow a couple of minutes to address it and then move on.
Most importantly make it fun and smile. People of all ages like to laugh and have fun. Creating opportunities for a bit of laughter is good for the tone of the event and relaxes everyone in the room.
Please let us know if you found this useful at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments and share if you think it will help others.