The greatest sign of success for a speaker is not a full room and positive smile-sheet summaries that only indicate attendees can successfully sit through long lectures.
The greatest sign of success for a speaker is to be able to say, “The audience is now working on the content as if I did not exist!” (Paraphrase, Maria Montessori).
Too many professional and industry speakers judge their success based on whether the client and the audience walked away with temporary cotton-candy feel good moments. The smile sheet evaluation does not demonstrate value, prove that the audience made attitude, behavior or skill changes, demonstrate attendee productivity increases, reveal long term transformation or engender competitive growth.
Time To Change
It is time for conference organizers to move away from the traditional, lecture-centered model for education. It is not a simple task to make this change.
It requires that speakers learn new skills and spend more time planning each session. It requires educating conference stakeholders on the why and how of the change. It requires locating resources to share with staff, speakers and volunteer committees so they can investigate more about the change. It requires new forms of assessment and evaluation. It requires a plan.
Yet the change results in the audience actually learning. The change results in changes in the biology of the brain of those that attend these sessions.
This change moves speakers from tellers of information to facilitators of learning.
What Is A Facilitator?
The word facilitator is used a lot in business. It means a variety of things depending upon the context.
For conference education sessions, a facilitator is one who provides an environment of attendee engagement that results in their learning. The facilitator provides resources such as questions, research, problems, content and case studies that attendees use. Here are seven guidelines to help speakers transition to facilitators of learning.
Facilitators of learning still provide some content to an audience, usually through short lectures. However, much of their planning time is dedicated to learning design: designing active learning experiences and activities such as individual reflection, peer to peer sharing and small group discussions. Adequate time is also spent developing contemplative and challenging questions that require attendees to reflect, think, consider and process information with higher order thinking skills and critical thought.
Five major questions facilitators ask when planning an education session:
- What will my attendees do during the education session?
- How will I ensure that they are doing the work of learning in thinking, reflection and connecting?
- How much session time do I need to devote to a short lecture to provide content and context that guides the audience’s engagement and exercises?
- How will I assess that my attendees understand the topic enough to apply it?
- How, when and how much feedback should I provide to my attendees?
Ultimately conference facilitators are to support attendees in doing their best thinking and practice. During education sessions, facilitators encourage full participation, promote mutual understanding and cultivate shared responsibility of learning and problem solving.
What is the biggest barrier for presenters when moving from dispensers of information to facilitators of learning? What are some steps conference organizers need to make when changing from a traditional lecture model to presenters as facilitators of learning?