The best conference organizers are proactively looking for fresh, new ideas to implement at their next annual meeting.
They work hard at coming up with the next big idea.
Shattering Status Quo
The most innovative conference organizers are not satisfied with creating ordinary, mundane conference experiences. They have no patience for the status quo. As a matter of fact, they seek to shatter the status quo.
Conference organizer game changers create unique ah-ha moments for attendees. They create transformational conference experiences that are like magic.
High-Quality Conference Learning Experiences
Providing high-quality conference learning experiences has become a game changer for attendees.
Unfortunately, our existing structure for most conference education is not adequate for today’s current understanding of learning. We have to transition to conference education that is experiential, participatory and socially constructed not passive and static.
If conference organizers continue to assume that learning is confined to education sessions, meeting rooms and lectures, then valuable opportunities are lost. The current traditional conference experience leads to high-inferior faux-learning experiences at best.
Five Innovative Ideas
Traditional conference education sessions are nothing more than tools to manage time, schedules, topics and attendees. They have become the building blocks of conference discipline.
The traditional, contained conference course can no longer be the central unit of the experience. Why? Because in most cases it is not the place where most of the significant learning takes place.
In today’s post-conference-course era, learning, inquiry, participation, social connections, reflection and the true experience often happens outside the schedule. Just ask Joan Eisenstodt who often travels to conferences to connect with interesting people in the hallways. She’s creating her own pro-am experience (see below).
Here are five innovative features that leverage high-quality learning that today’s conference game changers need:
This model embodies a professional-amateur (pro-am) approach to learning. It’s also known as cognitive apprenticeship. Participants interact with others in pairs, triads or small groups who are more experienced and expert. This is all about peer sharing and learning. Roundtable discussions and hallway expertise-sharing sessions can provide pro-am opportunities.
Our conferences need more learning experiences that are intellectually and instructionally challenging as well as engaging. Then they become hard-fun. Puzzlement, awe, surprise and other forms of emotional engagement increases the participant’s effort and attention. Simulations, immersive environments and games are other types of hard-fun. Who said learning has to be hard and boring?
Bottom-line, conference attendees are motivated by engaging in real-world problems that are from their own corner of the universe. The more the conference content focuses on current real-world problems the more meaningful and successful they are.
All conference learning opportunities should provide some type of feedback to each attendee. Without feedback learners have no idea if their thoughts are on target or not. They need to discuss it with others to get feedback. Similarly, the more that education can engage them into wanting to know more as well as how to know more, the better. Conference organizers need online and offline Amazon-like recommendation systems that suggest the next feed-forward course or experience.
5. Structured Autonomy
Many conference attendees will drive their own learning as long as they have structure and support. One of the best game changers is to provide suggested pathways, guides and road maps to help attendees solve their current problems. Conference websites and mobile apps that let attendees search education sessions according to their problems are a must for success today.
Hat Tips to Educase’s Game Changers: Education and Information Technologies.
What are some practical ways for conferences to provide more pro-am learning experiences? What must conference games have to be instructionally and intellectually sound that lead to learning versus games for just fun?