Most conference marketing should say: Come to our Zombie Conference! We want to consume your brain!
At least that statement would be more authentic to many conference experiences.
Many conference schedules are packed full of education sessions and informative presentations. Organizers rapidly shovel and push information at attendees.
It often feels like a medieval joust with each presenter trying to ram more information into the cavernous regions of our mind. Before we can even digest or process what we just heard, here comes another round of new information.
Conference organizers create experiences full of information dumps in an attempt to increase the value of their conference. But does more information equal more value?
And what do we remember from two to four days of conference information? What do we really recall from the conference? What did we really learn? What do we put into action?
New Conference Information Filters
The explosion of information, both online and during conferences, is both a blessing and a curse.
Without the right information filters, we can drown in advertisements, blogs, commercials, information, news, photos, podcasts, posts, spam, tweets, updates, videos and new web pages. Most people use a spam filter to catch polluted information.
We need a new type of conference information filter. We need something like a wearable pedometer that tells us when our brain has reached saturation and it’s time to take a break. We need a buzzer that says, “It’s time to discuss what you just heard. It’s time to process this information and make it applicable to your work.”
Imagine a conference education session where all of the attendee information filters started buzzing at the same time. That might startle a presenter or two!
The Law Of Information: Information Consumes Our Attention
Hebert Simon was one of the first to articulate the concept of attention economies. Simon said that the growth of information caused the scarcity of attention. He felt that information creates a poverty of attention.
“…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” ~ Hebert Simon, 1996
Information consumes our attention.
Attention Economy Deficit
The attention economy has an attention deficit: You can only pay attention to so many things.
Your brain is hardwired to only recall three to five things in your working memory every few seconds. The more information that you pay attention to, the more that is lost from working memory, unless transferred to long-term memory. And transferring information to long term memory takes time, repetition, practice and a process. Rarely is a conference attendee given that time to learn.
We might as well sell annual meeting shirts that say, “Zombie Conferences: We want to consume your brains…And you’ll never know it happened!”
What can conference organizers do to recreate meeting schedules that give opportunities for attendees to learn new information? What can presenters do to increase learning and decrease information dumps?