Peer conversations are more important to your conference than you know.
I’m not talking about one of your attendees serving as a speaker talking at the audience. That’s a lecture.
I’m referring to peer conversations in pairs, threesomes and small groups. You know when it’s happening at conferences because the rooms are buzzing with discussions. Everyone is talking to someone else.
The Industrial Conference Is Dead
Most of us still depend upon and expect an outdated model of conferences: the industrial conference.
The industrial conference uses an on old-school model of an expert speaker handing knowledge to the audience through their spoken word. We believe that if we hear information, our brains now have it. Or if it’s handed to us from up on stage, we’ve got it.
We put more emphasis on a speaker talking at an audience than peers talking with each other. Hey, they’re the expert, right?
Receiving tips from a speaker is just mimicry in action, not real learning! And definitely not how to fire and wire your brain in order to remember something!
Seriously, how many tips do you recall from the last speaker you heard? And if you can’t recall it, you didn’t learn it. If you didn’t learn it, you can’t apply it.
Oh, but wait, it’s on a handout somewhere! So therefore I have it.
Shifting Our Thinking About Conversations And Conferences
Enter the new networked, social conference which places more emphasis on attendees as learners and peer conversations as a format for learning.
“But I don’t want to talk to someone. I don’t want to work for my learning,” some would say. “I just want it handed to me.” That’s faux learning!
It’s time to shift our thinking about expertise, experience and conference peer conversations.
The first step is to get everyone talking out loud about the topic at hand. If the topic is not worth discussing, then why bother attending the conference. (Paraphrase of Harold Jarche about working and learning out loud.)
A New Definition Of Peer Conversations
Most of us believe that having peer conversations means talking, sharing information, telling others what to do or telling others what we think.
But it’s way more than that.
According to Organizational Anthropologist, Neuro-Innovator, CEO and author Judith E. Glasner, a conversation goes deeper and is more robust than simple information sharing.
Conversations are dynamic, interactive and inclusive. They evolve and impact the way we connect, engage, interact and influence others, enabling us to shape reality, mind-sets, events and outcomes in a collaborative way. ~ Judith E. Glasner.
Your Attendees Want Conversations For Learning
Don’t think your conference attendees want to learn through peer conversations or collaboration?
Consider the following 2014 research of how people prefer to learn in the workplace.
- 90% of respondents said collaboration with others was very important or essential to workplace learning.
- 84% said conversations with others were very important or essential to their learning.
- Less than 14% said training was essential to their learning.
Peer Conversations Are Vital To Your Conference Health
Peer conversations have the power to change the brain!
They stimulate the production of neurochemicals that change our body’s chemistry, not just for a moment, but perhaps for a lifetime states Glasner.
Neuroscience and cognitive psychology have shown us that it is through conversations that we connect and communicate. When we focus on developing more authentic conference conversations, we foster collaboration. When we practice collaboration and conversations together, we can raise the conversational intelligence of relationships, teams and even organizations says Glasner.
Moving from Power Over Others To Power With Others
Rarely have we created general sessions, education breakouts and networking opportunities that capitalize on authentic conversations!
Conversations have the power to move us from power over others to power with others says Glasner.
So what percentage of your educational offerings provides opportunities for peer conversations? Or is the majority of your education still one-way delivery of information?
What if we asked speakers to devote 25%, 35% or even 50% of their time to facilitating audience peer discussions?
What if we placed an emphasis on providing sessions that leveraged collaborative conversations?
What if we scheduled time and spaces for conversational sessions that created deeper understanding and engagement?
We have to be intentional to create conversation spaces within the conference experience. Peer conversations matter!
How can we move those hallway conversations into education sessions? What percentage of a conference experience should be dedicated to peer conversations?