Have you ever put leftover food in an empty plastic container?
Sure you have! We’ve all done it, especially around the holidays.
It Came From The Fridge
Have you ever opened up the refrigerator and smelled something foul?
Bet you’ve done that too, even if you won’t admit it.
Once you take a whiff of that nauseating smell, you realize it’s time to perform a refrigerator search. As you hunt for the source of the stench, you discover leftovers on the back of a shelf.
You pull the container from the frig. You didn’t date the lid nor can you remember what’s in it. You know it’s not one of your kids’ science projects either.
You gently lift the lid as the rank odor of moldy leftovers invades your nostrils. You quickly reclose the lid and decide that you need to trash the container with the leftovers.
The Stench Of Rotting Leftovers
Sometimes our conferences become sour. They smell. They’re getting moldy as nothing has changed in years.
We keep doing what we’ve always done, thinking, hoping and praying that this year will be better. We plan a schedule with the same number of presentations and lectures as last year. We continue to allow the volunteer committee to select speakers and content because it’s what we’ve always done.
Yet it still smells.
We think that if we change the speakers or content, perhaps it will get better. But it doesn’t.
The Leftovers Aren’t Good Enough
What happens when most presenters get the majority of their content from the Internet? It means that the conference attendees also have access to the same information.
This fact makes many conference hosts uncomfortable. Why? They’ve prided themselves on offering cutting edge research and information.
So what typically happens? Nothing! The conference organizers continue to offer lectures and presentations the way they always have. It’s our habit.
We cross our fingers and hope that people will still pay for registration. We hope no one will force us to take a look at the ROI of our education.
But our attendees expect something different. They don’t want a talking-head regurgitation of what’s online. They want an education experience that is different. They want something that helps them learn and remember that information.
Last year’s leftovers are not enough.
Breaking Leftover Habits
Ultimately, changing the conference experience for our attendees is about breaking our planning habits. It means we have to expect something different from our speakers. It means we have to create a different type of schedule. It means we have to create education experiences and not just offer lectures.
It’s time for us to reexamine our traditional conference schedule and the traditional lecture as education. We need to review it in the light of effectiveness of learning.
Sometimes it’s just better for us to start fresh from the beginning and throw out the container with the leftovers.
What are some traditional conference practices that have become moldy and smell? What types of conference experiences have you seen recently that were fresh and enticing?