The future of conference education is not necessarily about the next shining technology advancement, even though technology does play a fundamental role.
Nor is it about the next new trend in delivery of information or the next innovative session format.
The true conference education revolution is about a much simpler idea—nothing more, or less, than a new definition of learning itself.
A New Narrative Around Learning
Today, millions of connected individuals are crafting a new narrative around learning. It’s a story that challenges the fundamental premise of education, school and teaching.
In this new story, learning happens anytime, anywhere, with anyone we like. It is not dependent upon an expert, speaker or teacher in the same room with a group of like-minded peers.
Likewise, in this new story, learning happens around the issues and problems that we choose to solve, not what some conference committee or state agency tells us we need to learn.
Most importantly, in this new story, learning is not dependent upon information delivered by an expert at the front of the room. In the past, it was all about that information and we attended conferences, schools and workshops to access that information through a teacher-expert.
The new narrative around learning is about how participants interact with that information. It’s about how they construct their own meanings from that information and discuss how to apply it during that conference, not after it ends.
We have to stop thinking about conference education as something that is delivered to us. We have to start thinking about it as something we construct and create for our personal and professional use.
Thanks to the internet and the devices we use to access it, we’ve moved from a world where information, knowledge, insights, education and research were relatively scarce to one where they’re absolutely abundant.
As Kansas State University Professor Michael Wesch says, this new world of abundance is marked by
“…ubiquitous computing, ubiquitous information, ubiquitous networks, at unlimited speed, about everything, everywhere, from anywhere, on all kinds of devices that make it ridiculously easy to connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate and publish.”
More than two billion people are connected online with more than five billion expected online by 2020. With more than 600,000 iPhone apps, a trillion webpages, four million Wikipedia articles and eight years worth of YouTube videos uploaded every day, we are faced with ubiquitous abundance.
Today, if we have an internet connection, we have fingertip, on-demand access to an amazing library that holds close to the sum of human knowledge, and as equally important, access to more than two billion people from whom we can potentially learn.
Conferences Are Not Immune To This Change
This abundance of information and people connected online is changing education, governments, healthcare, music, shopping and just about every other aspect of our lives. Institutional change is everywhere.
So why would we think that the traditional conference as well as conference education would be immune from this change? It’s not!
Conference organizers must move from a focus on delivering information as their primary product for education or they will face major disruption and even extinction. They must concentrate on creating education experiences with a focus on learning. Securing a speaker from a call for proposals is no longer enough. It won’t pass the learning sniff test!
If you think your conference is exempt from the disruptive forces that are changing institutions and organizations everywhere, you will be in for a surprise when the buck stops at your door and attendance is crashing! Simply delivering information via a lecture or panel does not improve your value proposition. Actually, it tanks your value proposition.
It’s time for you to embrace a conference revolution—a new narrative on learning itself!
Why do so many conference organizers bank on the next new shiny object, technology or education format instead of the a new narrative around learning? How do you know when a conference has focused on your learning versus you just receiving information?
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