In order for conferences to compete in this new digital age, conference organizers must view conference education not as the place where content is delivered, but as a place where the content is discussed, analyzed and evaluated by the attendee.
We have to move from our old school, out dated thinking that the conference education session is just about delivery of information.
Providing Conference Content Is Not Enough
With information available 24/7 online, why would an attendee pay to come to your conference just to receive information?
Younger generations and veterans won’t! Instead, they want to dissect, describe and summarize the content. They want to construct their own meaning and respond to the content. They want to compare the content to their own experiences and discuss how to apply that content.
This is very different than sitting passively listening to the speaker present the content. That is not enough.
Transitioning From Familiar Terrain
Conference organizers and meeting planners too often stick with familiar terrain. We plan our meetings the way we’ve always done them. We secure speakers to present content.
We’ve got to adapt our old ways to our audience’s new expectations. We’ve got to transition from familiar terrain to new surroundings.
We’ve got to open up our perspectives and see that the world is changing fast. And as the world changes, so do the needs of our stakeholders. We need to open new lenses to interpret a new world and learn about the new ways of doing things.
Conference organizers need to value the learning process over distributing information. We need to value questions over answers. We need to value thinking over control (trying to control the information flow and therefore their thoughts.)
We have to transition from the old ways that don’t relate or apply to today’s future.
How can we begin to make this transition from dispensing content to valuing the learning process for our attendees? What barriers keep us from making these transitions?
Great perspective and discussion! The use of technology and engagement through social media can definitely aid in digesting information and encourage discussion. A ‘tweet wall’ would help people see upcoming speakers or events at the conference, or have people share their thoughts publicly.
Recently read an idea for conferences to have a “scavenger hunt” – where attendees check off panel discussions they attend, network with different people who meet certain criteria, get swag or win awards. Everyone loves some healthy competition 🙂 and definitely send a follow up message after the conference takes place!
Try to see when and where attendees are using the information they learned from your conference afterward. So often with events, people think that once the event is over, it is all done. Not so! Keep in touch with your attendees and build a relationship – through email, blog posts, forums, social media. You might be inspired to rework some ideas for your next conference!
John Sileo, Keynote Speaker says
Your point is a good one. I just want to add that conference speakers as well as organizers need to be more comfortable with different terrain. The traditional keynote is an ever-changing target, and we speakers get stuck in old modes of doing things. Some of the most successful keynotes I’ve witnessed recently were as interactive as a training, as entertaining as a humorist and as content-filled as a topic specialist. BUT THE REAL WORK WAS COMPLETED AFTER THE KEYNOTE. I have found that running a keynote follow-up ‘get dirty’ session where we actually help the audience begin to implement the content is one of the greatest value-add activities a speaker can add to the conference. Don’t just motivate and bring awareness, turn that into a tangible action plan. Conferences are getting better, and so must we, as organizers & speakers.
Jeff Hurt says
Good points. Personally, I don’t see why the “get dirty section” of the keynote can’t happen during the keynote. That’s where the real learning occurs.
John Sileo, Keynote Speaker says
Your point is well taken. The balance is having enough time to compact the “do something” phase into the 45 minute keynote slot. Finding that balance makes us golden in more ways that one 🙂