Information Indigestion. You can find it in the new book of conference diseases.
Information indigestion is a symptom of the conference organizer’s inability to filter unnecessary topics from the conference agenda. It is a real dis-ease to conference participants. And the culprit is the conference content organizer.
One of the biggest challenges facing meeting professionals and conference organizers is how to get the right topics from the right presenters to the right audience at the right time.
Information Intensification Smorgasbord
Often, conference organizers try to provide the smorgasbord, all-you-can-eat buffet of every topic possible for every possible niche group in attendance. We want to be all things to all people. We want to provide the ubiquitous super department store one-stop-shop of all issues. We want to meet everyone’s needs. We minor in lots of topics instead of majoring in a few critical ones. We offer surface overviews of an assortment of subjects and rarely provide deep-dives of crucial matters.
Typically, that information buffet is planned four, six and even eight months in advance so the courses can become stale and outdated. The presentation facts can become obsolete.
Unfortunately, our intention to offer a wide variety of topics and presenters harms learning and decreases the take-away value. Our conference participants’ attention is already distracted by so many different messages delivered in so many different forms. Creating an agenda that has something for everyone just exacerbates information indigestion. We need to provide courses that feel connected, integrated and related.
Internet Information Disruptor
For decades the publishing industry relied on editors to identify what subjects were worth printing. The Internet disrupted the publishing process. Now the decision of good versus bad information is upon the reader, not the publisher.
Just like the publishing industry, conference organizers expected their meeting professional to decide the topics that were worth presenting at their events. They decided months in advance the topics that conference participants would want to attend.
Yet, the Internet has also disrupted this process. Today’s conference participants want a say in the topics and issues discussed at the annual meeting. They are no longer satisfied to allow a committee of select people to decide for them. They want a voice and a vote.
Organizers now need to identify, in partnership with conference participants, several major significant over arching issues.
Becoming A Conference Filter For Your Participants
“It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure,” says Clay Shirky.
One of the new roles meeting professionals must embrace is becoming a conference content curator, a content filter. We have to do editing, curating and tasting to separate the informational wheat from the tasteless chaff. We need to think of ourselves as chefs providing a quality meal of insight, knowledge and ideas that offers a balanced and protein-rich content experience.
We don’t want to provide watered-down buffet of every possible course. We need to provide multi-layered, meaningful opportunities to discover, discuss, embrace and share critical content. This means identifying a couple overarching issues and then providing a variety of presentations that discuss those issues from different perspectives.
This will help both conference organizers and participants focus on the right information while engaging with each other about those topics. This makes the most of the face time participants have together.
What steps do conference organizers need to take to become content curator filters? What’s the best process to allow potential conference participants to help identify critical topics and issues that address their problems?