The Changing Role Of Conference Education


The abundance of information, resources and relationships that is easily accessible via the internet increasingly challenges the traditional conference education model.

In a world where information is everywhere, do people really want to pay for registration, airfare, lodging and expenses to access more information at a conference, even if it’s information from their colleagues?

Not really. They only want to pay for that access if it is the right information that fits their current needs and it helps them get ahead immediately.

And they only want to pay for conference education that makes sense of credible information and how it affects their daily work.

What Drives Attendees? Sense-Making

Content delivery does not drive attendees’ purchasing decisions. It is only half of the equation. Sense-making drives their real decision. If an organization provides good content but attendees can’t figure out how to apply it, they are going to stop paying for that content.

Sense-making is the ability to structure the unknown, based on information received, so we can act on it. It is the ability to make a mental map of changing dynamics, test that map with others through discussion and sharing, and then refine or abandon that map. This takes time and it cannot be done if we are listening to a speaker deliver content!

Attendees come to a conference searching for solutions to their problems. Information alone does not solve their problem. They want practical, tangible, precise takeaways that solve their problem. They want to be able to understand the why, how and what as well as be able to apply that information.

Most conferences focus on content delivery of research, data and information. That is not enough! We can get that online! We must provide education sessions that allow for personal sense-making. That’s a very different conference education session experience.

Conference Education Must Move Up The DIKUW Chain

Remember the DIKUW chain also known as the DIKW pyramid? DIKUW

The pyramid starts at the bottom with data (D). Just having data is not enough. We have to move up the pyramid. We have to translate that data into useable information (I).

Just having information is not enough. That information must be translated into know how or knowledge (K).

But having knowledge is not enough. From there we’ve got to translate that knowledge into understanding (U), knowledge that makes relevant sense to us. That’s where sense-making occurs at the fourth step of the pyramid. That’s what attendees want! It is only as understanding that we can apply it, use it and hopefully through practice turn it into wisdom (W).

Right now, most conference organizers and conference programmers are focused on the bottom of the DIKUW pyramid. They are focused on delivery of data and information.

As long as conference organizers focus on delivery of data and information for their education sessions, they will continue to miss the mark! It’s time to transition into providing conference education sessions that help attendees make sense of the knowledge and how to apply it. That’s the conference experience that matters!

Why are so many meeting professionals and conference organizers still focused on delivery of content, data and information? What do conference organizers need in order to create education sessions that help attendees make sense of the information?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
1 comment
  1. Glenn Tecker says:

    Yes. It’s the difference between a presentation and an instructional /learning session. The difference between an instructor and a presenter. The difference between focus on what will be taught and what will be learned. The difference between what is expected for free and what is worth paying for. The difference between a learning community no matter how temporal and a passive audience no matter how well entertained.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *