February 15, 2012 by Jeff Hurt
Where are the dynamic conferences going in the future? Who is driving these conference changes?
A renewed vision focused on learning, value, connections and ROI is driving this change. Participants and conference organizers are leading the charge.
Participants can find information online. Ask any Millennial for a synonym for information and they say, “Oh, that’s on the Internet. It’s Google and Bing. We don’t need to go to a conference to find information. We have it with us on our smartphones and tablets.”
Unless your conference information is exclusive, unique and so timely that it gives participants an advantage, participants are not coming to your conference for your information. They are coming for an experience. They are coming to connect. They are coming to share and learn from their peers.
Content is a starting point. How that content is shared, experienced and discussed is more important than the content itself. Application of the content is the goal.
Innovative organizers are transforming conferences from a series of meetings and education sessions into a community of learning spaces. They are finding new ways to stage education and learning experiences. They are designing experiences that allow people to connect with each other, share what is and isn’t working, discuss and communicate with each other. They are crafting sessions where the hallway learning experience is encouraged and extended in each education session.
Instead of trying to fill a conference schedule with speakers from the call for proposals, innovative conference organizers are taking a different approach. They are identifying the top issues and challenges that attendees face. Then they create a schedule based on those challenges. Once they’ve done that, they seek speakers to address those issues. This creates a more threaded and intentional content experience. When done correctly, it also creates a narrative for participants to follow.
This ensures that the conference content is timely and relevant. Instead of leaving the conference education up to chance depending upon what proposals are received, the conference organizers ensure that the program has significance and meaning. This also helps weed-out the marketing departments that submit proposals for their bosses with the goal of selling their products and services during the session instead of helping participants grow.
Similarly, the speakers’ and participants’ roles are changing.
Speakers’ shift from owners of information to facilitators and guides of learning. The shift from lecturing to learning. From being totally in control to being a co-learner with participants.
Speakers shift from being the expert sage on stage to the guide on the side. They acknowledge that often people in the room know as much or even more then they do. Speakers focus on giving participants time to digest, think about, discuss and reflect on the content delivered. It’s about the speaker talking less and the participants talking more.
This shift requires a rethinking in room layouts, speaker selection and presentations. It means that a report on the most current research is out. Instead a presentation about the top three research findings followed by peer discussion on what the results mean to their jobs is in!
Innovative conference organizers are excited about change. Their conference participants embrace change. They are all passionate about innovation, experimenting and learning new things.
Instead of fear that something won’t work, everyone embraces a culture of trust. Failure is acknowledged as part of that learning experience.
What parts of the conference experience, if any, should we keep the same? Why are we so enamored with information whether we learn it or not?
Filed Under: Event Planning
Thanks Jeff. I completely agree that participants are not coming only for the content and that curation is key.
Embrace a culture of trust. Perfect way to move forward. As always Jeff a great post.
Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m with you that curation and context are the keys!
Trust is so critical to so much of what we do in our lives. I can’t imagine living in total distrust of everyone and every thing. That has to be a terrible life.
Thanks for reading and commenting Tahira.
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