We participate, therefore we are.
This spin on cogito ergo sum (English: “I think, therefore I am”) is a good motto for all conferences and events.
It is exactly where I think conference organizers should begin to focus their meeting planning efforts. They need to focus on designing learning experiences where attendees actively participate, not where they passively consume.
Designers Of Experiences Not Schedulers Of Speakers
Conference organizers need to see themselves as more than logistics and detail planners. They need to see themselves as designers of education experiences. This means focusing on more than just scheduling a panel or speaker.
Attendees come to events for networking and education. When they say they want education, they mean they want to learn. They don’t just want information. They can get that online. They want to learn something relevant that help solves their problems.
Learning is a process that takes place in the mind. It is not a byproduct of listening to a lecture. It is a process that requires the learner to do and to think. Without thinking and doing, learning can’t occur. Listening to a lecture is not doing or thinking.
Here’s the secret to whether learning has occurred: Memory is the residue of learning.
If the participant can’t remember what happened, what they thought about and what they did, then no learning occurred. Think about that for a minute. How often do we walk out of a conference lecture or panel discussion and remember what was said? Rarely! And if we don’t remember it, learning did not occur.
Ten New Conference Learning Manifesto Principals To Adopt
Here are ten conference learning principles that meeting professionals should strive for and adopt. They all revolve around “We participate, therefore we are!”
1. From Attendee To Participant
We should be designing conference experiences that encourage registrants to transition from attendees to participants.
2. From Passive To Active
We need to discover new ways to help individuals move from passive attendees to active participants.
3. From Monologues To Discussions
We must shift from planning one-way lectures to more facilitated discussions.
4. From Diatribes To Chunking Content
We need to switch from sixty- to ninety-minute lectures to sessions that provide short spurts (ten- to twenty-minutes) of content that serve as catalysts for seventy- to eighty minutes of discussion.
5. From Expert Authority To Facilitators Of Learning
We need to move from securing industry experts as speakers to contracting skilled facilitators that can capitalize on industry experienced participants in each session.
6. From Expertise To Subject Matter Experienced
We need to see our conference participants as the industry experts and subject matter experienced (SMEs).
7. From The What To The How
We must find a balance of the “what,” the content, and the “how,” the learning process.
8. From Information Transfer To Learning
We must stop seeing our meetings as containers for distributing information and start seeing them as a process to facilitate learning.
9. From Information As A Commodity To Learning Experiences That Have Value
We must come to grips with the fact that “information” is a commodity and that “learning” is something that has significant value.
10. From Listening To Doing And Thinking
Learning results from what an adult does and thinks! It only comes from what the learner does and thinks. The presenter can advance learning only by influencing what the learner does to learn!
What other learning principles would you add to this list? Why is active participation in the conference experience so important?