Here is the heart of why most people attend conferences: learning.
Learning about others. Learning new ideas through collaboration and problem solving. Learning what has worked. Learning solutions to our problems. Learning current trends and research to further our careers.
Learning is the heartbeat of today’s world. Stop learning and you stop progression, and business is dead in its tracks. Stop learning and you become stagnant like a cesspool.
Learning is also the pulse in business: doing it better, faster, cheaper and disrupting the old ways to find new business. It is the drumbeat for entrepreneurship and growth.
According to ASAE’s research for The Decision To Learn, people rate professional development and education, second only to access to up-to-date information, as the most important role the association plays in their industry profession. Learning is what drives people to join an association.
What Drives Adults To Learn?
According to The Decision To Learn, the driving extrinsic motivation for adults to learn is to increase their job status which then increases their income and social standing in their chosen profession. Knowing the latest research and how to apply it opens up new opportunities for career advancement. Learning is important to a better life.
The driving intrinsic motivation for adults to learn is a general sense of accomplishment. In order to feed their personal passions about subjects that they have limited knowledge or experience, adults want solutions to their real-world problems and issues. And they want those solutions provided in provocative learning formats, not the standard boring talking heads.
Unfortunately, sometimes conference programming gets in the way of learning. Poor content, bad speakers, outdated information, lack of engagement can all be barriers to learning.
The 21st Century Conference Attendee Bill Of Rights
We invest money, time and energy to attend conferences. We arrive with a set of specific expectations. Since learning is the driving force behind conference attendance, and our extrinsic motivation is to move up the employment ladder to a better life, we expect the best from our conference experience. Here is the new 21st Century Conference Attendee Bill Of Rights to embrace learning and meet our expectations.
1. The Right To A Social Learning Experience
Learning is social. Learning is about more than the process of acquiring knowledge. It requires that adults get the chance to reflect, think and discuss new facts, figures and pragmatic applications. Requiring adults to sit in education sessions for three- to six-hours a day and only listen to talking heads lessens the social experience and learning.
2. The Right To Choose Freely
We have a right to free choice among conference learning opportunities. We prefer a variety of options of topics and speakers. If the scheduled education content does not fit our needs, we have a right to choose to talk with others in the hallways instead of attending the sessions.
3. The Right To Participation And Engagement
The depth of our learning depends on the depth of our engagement. Information dumps pass through one ear and out the other as our brains can’t retain it. Engagement is joined at the hip with empowerment. Force us to sit passively for six- to eight-hours and we lose our ability to learn and feel a lack of empowerment.
4. The Right To Be Problem-Centric Instead Of Content-Oriented
We come to conferences with a set of real-world problems and issues we need solved right now. We don’t want content and information that might be needed in the next six months. We have pressing issues now. Planning and securing conference topics eight to twelve months before the conference helps you be efficient for planning but does not suffice. That ensures that the content is outdated and has expired, unless its evergreen information that is the same from year to year.
5. The Right To Decide How To Learn It
We have a right to decide if we want to sit passively and listen to a talking head, engage in round table discussions or participate in informal learning by talking to others in hallways and lounges. Give us options, sometimes even about the same topic but provided in different learning formats.
6. The Right To Take Our Own Learning Into Our Own Hands
If we are not learning through the conference programming, we will take learning back into our own hands. We no longer feel that we must sit quietly out of respect for your choice of poor speakers or content. We paid to be there. We will not let poorly delivered content, bad information or sour speakers hijack our learning. Our learning is too important. We will leave the room if it does not meet our needs.
7. The Right To Embrace The Law Of Two Feet (Also Known As The Law Of Motion)
We have a right to exit education opportunities that don’t meet our needs. We have a right to seek learning elsewhere. The mass exodus from the room is a clear sign to the speaker that they something missed the mark.
When we purchase a ticket to a movie or play, and it is poorly done, we leave early. If the sports game is going south and our team is being creamed, we leave early. If the restaurant food is bad, we complain to the manager and if they don’t fix the problem, we leave. We are consuming your conference experience and if it doesn’t meet our learning needs, we will leave…and may not return next year.
8. The Right To Exciting Content And Speakers
Our brains are hard-wired to not pay attention to boring things. We can’t change that. We have a right to expect that you are providing stimulating content from electrifying speakers.
What other attendee rights would you add to this list? Which right resonates with you most and why?