Obituary For A Conference Education Session

It was a wasted ninety minutes of life.

Image by Creativity + Timothy K Hamilton

5,400 seconds of possibility that are now gone forever without a shred of hope, learning or motivation. It had such potential. It died so quick and so young.

No one understood a single thing that was said. The barrage of PowerPoint slides with small fonts, too many bullets and conference mandated template slides was painful.

It was an agonizing and excruciating ninety minutes. All of the attendees felt it.

“We want our ninety-minutes back,” they cried. “And we paid to attend this event?” they questioned.

Accessories In Murder

The wasted ninety minutes was not the fault of the PowerPoint. It was not the fault of the AV team. It was not the fault of the venue. It was not the fault of the catering team. It was not the fault of the audience.

It was the fault of the speaker. It was the fault of the conference organizer that secured the speaker. It was the fault of the conference committee that selected this presenter.

They are all accessories to the crime, killing this conference education session. They should all be held accountable for their efforts.

The presenter is smart, professional and accomplished. But she failed before she ever opened her mouth.

The conference organizers are savvy, bright and good at managing details. But they failed because they do not understand how adults learn and good presentation and delivery skills needed to ensure learning occurs.

The conference committee is a wealth of brain power, with intelligent and experienced professionals. But they failed because they put their own agenda before their audience’s needs. They think they know how to pick good speakers but education is beyond their realm of experience.

All three accessories failed to realize that presentations are about contributing something, giving something of relevance to the audience and designing presentations that are brain-friendly for adult learning.

Passing The Presentation Life-Giving Elevator Test

We’ve all heard of the elevator speech. A pitch that is delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator, approximately 30 seconds to two minutes. This conference education session could have been saved if it had focus on the life-giving elevator test.

The presentation life-giving elevator test addresses these two important questions:

  1. What is the point?
  2. Why does it matter?

What is the point of this presentation? What is the core message? What three things do you want the audience to remember when you are finished? How can this message be expressed in a way that is unambiguously understood by all? Are all these details relevant to the core message?

Why does it matter? Why should the audience care? Often experts and presenters are so close to their materials that they can’t see why it matters. They think the matter is obvious to all. They are living in oblivion without self-awareness of their surroundings. They are consumed by their own thoughts and voices. It takes persuasion, emotion and empathy along with the facts to reach the attendee.

This conference education session never really had a chance. It could not pass the presentation life-givin elevator test. It was dead before it began.

What can we do to ensure that conference education sessions address the “so what…and your point is questions?” What should attendees do when they experience a conference education session that is dying before their eyes?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Hurt, sgnewsfeed. sgnewsfeed said: Obituary For A Conference Education Session: It was a wasted ninety minutes of life. Image by… […]

  2. Obituary For A Conference Education Session…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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