Six Trends Observed in Experiential Learning

The National Conference Center – one of the nation’s largest conference centers and the largest on the East Coast – with its partner The Browne Center, has observed six trends in experiential learning.

Team Building at NCC

 

Experiential learning presents a highly unique growth opportunity for participants, and a tool that planners can use to achieve a specific outcome.  Differentiated from the more traditional teambuilding, experiential learning uses a blended approach to learning, integrating activities, exercises, adventure elements, quiet time and ongoing post-event coaching to create powerful programs of leadership development, strategic planning, mentoring and coaching, communication, feedback & observation and enhancement of behavior styles.

 

 

Team Building with Chef

 

Six Trends Observed in Experiential Learning:

  1. Barrier Free Learning … Take away the white classroom tables. Barrier free learning is hands-on training in a lab-like setting verses the traditional meeting room or classroom. For example, The National has created an entire workroom and lab for simulation or scenario training for a top major client to deliver new skills, taking away the barrier of the ‘white table’ with attendees learning in a lab or open space area.
  2. Learning by Choice … Mixing classroom training with outdoor activities. The Challenge Course at The National has high and low rope elements, and increasingly facilitators are using a Challenge-by-Choice approach.  Learning Programs are designed to meet the variety of goals unique to each client, whether conferees make use of the elements of the high or low course, or none at all. There is a role for everyone in the training, even if individuals choose not to physically participate.
  3. Learning by Shared Experiences … Creating ‘shared experiences’, such as a building project, where everyone is involved collectively – from C-level executives to assistant managers – taking each participant out of their comfort zone and into a creative problem solving task to construct the future.
  4. Learning by Silence … Groups are increasingly exploring the power of silence in a high-speed, technically dependent world. Facilitators are allowing more time for conferees’ solo quests, reflection, meditation time and movements like yoga that can provide powerful reconnection with the natural world, and the true inner self, opening new channels of connection and learning.
  5. Learning by Doing… Learners participate in carefully chosen experiences that are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis. It engages the learners to be in direct experience, to be doing something that connects to an area they hope to improve or develop.  The learner is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experiment-ting, being curious, and solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
  6. Learning through Application … While debriefing is a structured process facilitated by a skilled professional throughout the process of a program, it has been in place for some time.  Today a post program application assists participants over time with how learning translates back at the office. There are a number of strategies that can be arranged to help facilitate this continued learning process. These include, self-directed debrief meetings, professional coaching sessions by phone or in person, or follow up, mini sessions at the one, two or three month intervals. These sessions can be highly productive and fun, assisting the participants in real time learning application issues. They can be on the participants work site or scheduled as an offsite.

 

High-Y-Pam-Image1

 

The National Conference Center installed a state-of-the-art challenge course last year to provide additional training and learning opportunities for their clients. The National Challenge Course consists of five low elements plus many portable options, which are weight bearing problem solving activities that can accommodate 15 or more people at any one time. Also six high elements can be done with two or more solo, or with many other climbers simultaneously. All high elements are dynamic relays where participants hold the rope for one another.

For more information about experiential learning at The National, call 800-640-2684.

WEST BELMONT PLACE

Galas, weddings and social events at West Belmont Place, adjacent to The National, offer an elegant setting enhanced by full-service event planning. Surrounded by more than 65 scenic acres, our beautiful facility features a choice of banquet halls and event venues ideal for any occasion.

There are limitless reasons to come together…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only one place can deliver the perfect tapestry of rich history and sophisticated hospitality. West Belmont Place boasts the largest ballroom of any Northern Virginia event venue. Your special moments become treasured memories at this distinctive DC area destination with:

 

  • An ideal location on more than 65 scenic acres in lovely Leesburg, Virginia—just 12 miles from Dulles International Airport and 45 minutes from Washington DC
  • A sweeping circular drive and distinguished porte-cochere to welcome guests
  • A variety of versatile indoor venues—including the West Belmont Place Ballroom which accommodates up to 1,800 guests—to achieve the ideal atmosphere for any event
  • Awe-inspiring outdoor spaces—such as a stunning pergola and an expansive terrace with show-stopping views—for one-of-a-kind gatherings
  • Outstanding onsite catering with creative culinary choices and wine selections for all occasions
  • An extraordinary culinary team led by our Executive Chef Todd Goldian and Chief Wine Officer Mary Watson-DeLauder CS, CSW

For more information on planning your event in our elegant venues, call 877.363.3104,  email us  or submit an  online RFP  today.

 

WEEKEND PACKAGE: UP TO 30% OFF

Meetings at The National and West Belmont Place

With over 40 years of success, as one of the country’s most comprehensive meeting facilities, The National is the proven leader in delivering an unparalleled learning and development environment for your group.  Our expansive and innovative center enables your organization to truly focus on their training while enjoying warm hospitality from our team of skilled ambassadors and energizing recreation in our pleasant, 65-acre, campus-like wooded surroundings.

Our meeting packages:

Day Meeting Package:

  • Fully equipped conference room, break-out room and meeting setups
  • Standard audiovisual package (some audiovisual aids may be subject to additional fee)
  • Lunch in the  Dining Room
  • Continuous refreshment breaks (coffee, soft drinks, snacks)
  • Dedicated conference planner
  • Use of fitness center
  • Complimentary parking
  • GSA Package priced per person, per day

The Complete Meeting Package includes:

  • Overnight accommodations
  • Professional conference planning manager
  • Fully equipped conference rooms, large meeting spaces and break-out room
  • Standard audiovisual package
  • Three meals daily in our expansive 800-seat Dining Room
  • Continuous refreshments and snacks
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi in the meeting rooms and guest rooms
  • Use of fitness center and jogging trails
  • Complimentary parking
  • GSA Package priced per person, per day

The National is dedicated to a singular focus: providing the best meeting, training and learning environment for your organization. As the leader in educational meetings for more than three decades, we can help advance corporate learning goals while maximizing training dollars. Our multipurpose event facility is also the perfect place to host conferences, conventions and symposiums of all sizes.

The National features:

  • Secure, distraction-free setting with self-contained buildings surrounded by 65 acres just 12 miles from Dulles International Airport and 45 minutes from Washington DC
  • Sophisticated 55,000 square foot West Belmont Place Event Center featuring Northern Virginia’s largest ballroom (16,552sf)
  • 265,000 square feet of event space with 250 meeting rooms organized into five distinctive areas for maximum privacy and versatility
  • Sophisticated presentation technology with onsite audiovisual and IT support
  • High-speed Internet access and climate control in all meeting rooms
  • Professional conference support team and meeting planning services
  • Innovative 800-seat Dining Room, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Black Olive Bar and Grill, for relaxing after a busy day
  • Options for private banquets and themed culinary events, to add a special note to your event
  • 917 guest rooms including 78 suites, conveniently grouped together within five distinctive areas
  • Recognized with numerous accolades including Pinnacle Awards, the M&C Gold Key Award and The Paragon Award
  • Recognized by the International Association of Conference Centers as Green Seal-certified

For more information on planning a meeting at The National, please contact the sales office,or  submit a Request for Proposal  today.

 

CHALLENGE COURSE

To add an extra dimension to corporate events, meetings and training programs, The National offers a wide variety of programs to analyze and strengthen your teams dynamic with our experiential learning and team building programs. We are able to offer a variety of team development activities that challenge, strengthen, and propel your team to the next level. We offer high and low elements as well as indoor activities; all coordinated with expert facilities to ensure your group receives maximum results.

Even the best teams can benefit from team building exercises; they’re a great way of improving communication, morale, motivation, productivity, helping employees to get to know each other better, and learning about one’s strengths and weaknesses. Team building activities can be used by any organization, large or small, to promote better teamwork in the workplace, and as most leaders know, great teamwork is one of the key factors associated with an organization’s success.

Communication and Icebreakers

Wine Seminars
Pairings in the Park (food & wine reception)
Wine Tasting

 

Problem Solving Activities

Challenge Course

Experiential activities allow people to practice the skills that are necessary to work effectively with others while also strengthening group rapport and developing leadership qualities within each member.

 

THE NATIONAL’s Challenge Course includes:

Initiatives: Portable problem solving activities

Low Elements – permanent weight bearing structures constructed outdoors of wood and cables:

  • Balance Platforms
  • Strategic Choices
  • The National Way Finder
  • Team Walls
  • Island Crossing

High Elements – outdoor challenges constructed of wood and cable that allow participants to be as high as 40’.  All participants are in climbing gear and are protected by belayers.

  • Leap of Faith-up to 2 people simultaneously
  • Flying Squirrel
  • 4 sided Climber Tower with cargo net for up to 2 people per side simultaneously
  • Giant Ladder- up to 3 people simultaneously
  • The High Tri- includes up to 2 people simultaneously on each of the following 3 activities-
    • The High Y
    • The Commitment Bridge
    • The Catwalk

Who can participate in the Course?

The great thing is that anyone can participate to their level of comfort – they will be challenged according to their choice. The success of the team depends on each member’s willingness to work with and rely on each other for support.

Contact us  to arrange your team building activities to enhance group dynamics and increase camaraderie.

Building Momentum in 2018

  1. General Manager of the Year from Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association
  2. Hotel of the Year from Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association
  3. Platinum Choice Award from Smart Meetings
  4. Ambassador Tourism Award to Jamil Chaudhry from Visit Loudoun
  5. Tourism Action Award to Project Search from Visit Loudoun
  6. Tourism Branding Campaign “Go Big” from Visit Loudoun
  7. Partner of the Year from Loudoun County Public Schools
  8. Smart Star Award as “Best of the Best” and “Best Conference Center” from Smart Meetings magazine
  9. Award of Excellence from Corporate & Incentive Travel magazine
  10. Stella Award for Best Conference Center from Northstar Meeting Group, including Successful Meetings and Meetings & Conventions magazines
  11. Meetings Trendsetter Award to Mary Watson from Meetings Today magazine<
  12. 2017 Readers’ Choice Award Convention South

To Yourself Be True

Q&A with the National’s sales guru, Juan Garcia, offering insight on how the National attracts business from around the globe

Seal the deal: What’s your pitch for the National?

My team has developed a ‘laser focus’ policy which means we learn about our prospects and customers, their industries, their timelines, so we know what’s important to them. When we work with our clients, we are working with relevant information that helps them do their job better. More often than not, it’s about Learning and Development. It’s not about a pitch, it’s the National owning Learning and Development, which just happens to be the hot topic for lots of organizations, lots of companies.

How does the National compare to some of the other big conference hotels you’ve worked with in the past?

The National is unique because our priority is providing the ideal environment for learning and development, peer-to-peer learning, training, networking, team building, and more. Our facility is designed and built for it. Our location is ideal for it. Our technology is right for it. We’re not trying to be to everything to everyone, we’re simply in the right place for those organizations and corporations that need what we offer.

What’s the big deal about Learning and Development?

Organizations find that delivering valuable Learning & Development (L&D), higher education, and training creates tremendous value to employees or members while growing the strength of the organization itself. This recirculating ROI makes L&D a priority for top performing organizations and corporations. In addition, planners have to create a learning experience that embraces millennials to baby boomers in their workforce. For example, in dining, they have to satisfy vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and those eating sugar-free. They have to accommodate the techies and the tech-less. They come to The National because we have all of those needs covered – flexible classrooms, team building, a world-class dining program, IT, and award-winning service.

There’s a lot happening in Loudoun. Is that part of the appeal?

This community is ripe with business, ripe with talent and bursting with places to go and things to do. Interestingly, when organizations are here for a week, we give them lots of reasons to stay on campus in the evenings. They’re networking with each other over a great dinner, taking in some fun in the Black Olive, partaking in a wine tasting, or spending quality time around our fire pits. When they do venture out to enjoy a winery tour or First Friday in Leesburg, they are wowed by all that this area has to offer. In addition to the value of our location to our customers, I’ve been able to hire great local talent who want the opportunity to work at a world-class facility, without the commute to DC.

We’re Engaged!

The season of romance gives way to some serious planning

As the elephant rounded the corner and headed straight towards the doors, wedding guests gasped… in delight! The moment was as thrilling as the bride had imagined it would be, and she knew it could only happen at West Belmont Place. With multiple ballrooms, patios and extensive grounds, West Belmont Place is the canvas on which many wedding masterpieces are created.

Holiday engagements usher in a new season of wedding planning, and certified wedding planner Paula Lynn Safran is ready for the rush. Paula and her team meet with couples, and often their families or friends, to walk the West Belmont Place property and envision their wedding experience. That first consultation tells her so much about the couple and the feeling of their wedding.

“We do things differently here. When I meet with a newly engaged couple, I’m planning their once in a lifetime, their forever. Every love story is unique and we tailor each brush stroke to become exclusively theirs.”

West Belmont Place has a long tradition of holding just one wedding at the facility at a time so couples can have their special day be theirs alone. And Paula makes sure it delivers on the things that are most important to the couple, whether it’s an outdoor ceremony at sunset, a big band, and a spacious dance floor, or a rocking after party. With an on-site design center, each customized wedding experience takes shape quickly, and up-front pricing keeps everything on budget.

“We include so many of the items that other venues charge extra for – from cake cutting to backup space for outdoor ceremonies. We want you to wake up the morning after your wedding and say hands down, ‘That was the best day of our new life together!'”

The elephant was part of a cultural wedding, one of West Belmont Place’s specialties. The facility has also been transformed to be an exotic international market, a flower-filled garden, and a black-tie extravaganza that guests will never forget. By getting to know each couple, and being engaged in every detail, the staff is able to give them a one-of-a-kind wedding day. Paula has even surprised couples with special treats on their wedding day. She served an appetizer of tiny gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup shooters to delight a groom who loves comfort food. She brought in an ice cream cart to wow a couple whose first date included Drumstick cones. And even helped a bride surprise her police officer groom with a donut truck for desserts.

“There’s no end to what we can do to make a wedding day memorable here. We go way beyond being just your location.”

Serving from Our Backyard


Fresh and local feels right at home at the Black Olive Bar. The popular hangout is open to the National’s guests as well as the public each evening, with upscale bar food right out of Loudoun’s backyard.

It may be snowing and cold this time of the year but it’s a summer classic – a hotdog – that’s the star of the menu each night.

The “Farmer Dog,” as it’s been nicknamed is an all-beef, no filler hotdog made for the National by CEA Farms and Donnie Virts, a local beef rancher.

“It’s the absolute BEST hotdog you’ll ever have!” boasted a Black Olive patron, finishing the last bite.

By partnering with Loudoun farmers, the Black Olive has distinguished themselves as farm-to-table, much to the delight of local foodies as well as out-of-town guests who take in the rolling farms and vineyards on their way to the National. The Chef’s Menu Series focuses on using fresh ingredients and seasonal cooking techniques. Grilled favorites in the summer, a bounty of vegetables in the fall, and the first fresh herbs of spring are all part of the experience. With karaoke, billiards, darts, Saturday games on the big screens, and wedding after-parties on weekends, the Black Olive is keeping things fresh all winter long.

Loudoun residents can join the Black Olive Club, free of charge, and enjoy special promotions and events throughout the year.

2018 is the Year of the National

Donnie Virts, a twelfth generation farmer, is the kind of local partner that defines 2018 for the National: Fresh and innovative but also neighborly

“People want to eat fresh, even when they’re not at home. You’d expect to find farm-to-table at a top steakhouse, but not necessarily at a large conference center,” says Donnie. “That makes it such a great surprise for guests of the National. They really savor the quality here.”

Virts, a Loudoun County farmer is supplying the National with his hydroponically-grown produce and Loudoun-raised beef. He’s also a bit of a pioneer, advocating that the best way for Loudoun to grow big business is to stay true to its roots – a philosophy shared by the National. So much so that the conference center buys all that it can from local vendors, from office supplies to wedding favors to tomatoes.

Donnie Virts is an unlikely symbol of progress for the National. In the past few years, they’ve taken a deeper look at who they are, what they are good at, and where they fit into the community. This navel-gazing has uncovered brilliant truths: The National is as relevant as ever, and the good things happening here have built an irreversible momentum.

A wave of energy has brought a local farmer into the fold as a valued partner at the largest hospitality facility, in the largest industry in Loudoun, a county where shining bright has become a bit of an art form.

The National is first and foremost a venue of learning. But with some heavy-hitting industry awards under its belt, it’s clear that training workshops aren’t all that’s being done right here. Hotel of the Year, General Manager of the Year, Tourism Branding, and even wine education are among the accolades – and the stuff of dreams for heavy hitter hotels.

The catalyst for the National’s success is a combination of factors, all with an underlying theme of community. Local efforts established the now-thriving Project SEARCH school-to-work program, hosting ten local students each session. And sparked a relationship with EatLoCo to test the wares of local farmers and food artisans, where Donnie Virts met Chef Todd Goldian.

Giving back wasn’t a strategy but it had massive ROI, as the National gained recognition for doing what they do -but doing it differently. And that started the wheels moving, and momentum building.

Sitting on the first page of 2018’s calendar, the National’s year ahead looks like a target, with the visitor’s experience as its bullseye. Those coming for work, for events, for fun can all expect something special, and likely, something they didn’t imagine.

“Seeing is believing,” says GM, Geoff Lawson.

Powerfully Simple Meetings

Cultural norms for conducting meetings vary among industries and organizations, but a solid meeting process is vital for excellent meeting performance. Unfortunately, few organizations have such a process. Imagine a major highway with no lines on the road and no posted signs on the shoulder. Now imagine a daily commute on this road with tens of thousands of other drivers who were never taught how to drive. How effectively would the traffic flow? How is this any different from the meeting process in most organizations? Inadequate process from under-equipped leaders is a major contributor to ineffective meetings.

In our experience, the meeting process is generally left to the discretion of the individual meeting leader, rather than following a proven organizational process. Yet most business professionals have never received formal training about how to plan and run effective meetings. In a recent survey of our users, fewer than ten percent have ever received training on how to conduct effective business meetings. A recent Microsoft survey reports that there are 11 million meetings in the US each day.  That is 3 Billion meetings per year.  Imagine the enormous amount of time invested in these meetings each day, yet fewer than 10 percent of professionals ever receive training about how to conduct effective business meetings.  This would not be tolerated in any other area of your business.  Don’t tolerate it in your meetings either.  It is a waste of precious human capital and it has a big impact on overall company productivity and results.

On January 12, 2018 the National is hosting an exclusive professional development opportunity titled “Powerfully Simple Meetings”.  Facilitated by the authors of Powerfully Simple Meetings – Your Guide to Fewer Faster More Focused Business Meetings, this half-day workshop equips you with the resources and skills needed to lead the most effective meetings imaginable.  Whether you host your meetings at The National or in your own offices, this workshop will help you and your organization make the most productive use of your precious time.