Along with pending education trends that will influence conference education, there are significant challenges that will also have a tremendous impact.
Conference organizers will face these challenges in the coming five years as traditional education methods continue to encounter disruptive innovation.
Top Ten Challenges
Here are the top ten most significant challenges in terms of their impact on logistics, planning, speakers, conference education, learning and delivery of information.
1. Lack of industry speaker coaching and learning opportunities.
Few conference hosts offer speaker coaching and professional development for their industry speakers acknowledging how knowledge retention, understanding and learning really occur.
Despite the widespread agreement among education professionals and institutions about evidence based education and brain based learning, coaching and education opportunities for speakers to improve their presentations are rare. The evidence shows that the traditional lecture is a barrier to learning. As more conference attendees become dissatisfied with the traditional conference education format, more are going to turn to alternatives for learning opportunities.
2. An understanding of as well as requiring speakers to use evidence based education techniques when they present.
Most conference organizers know very little about education and learning. Rarely do they require speakers to use evidence based education techniques for knowledge retention, understanding and learning. Smart, savvy conference organizers request this information in the call for speaker proposals.
3. Conference education focuses on content decided by committees instead of attendees needs.
Conference education focuses on content developed by committees who feel they are the experts and know what attendees should know. Rarely do conference organizers focus conference education content on solving attendees’ most pressing needs.
4. The emphasis is on covering content and information delivery.
Conference organizers put a premium on covering as much content as possible and the delivery of information instead of learning, knowledge retention and working with the content.
5. A concentration on the next new shiny thing in technology.
Too many conference organizers are looking for the next new shiny technology object instead of a focus on meeting attendees’ needs.
6. New education models and formats are bringing unprecedented competition to conference education.
Organizations are looking for new ways to provide high quality service for learning opportunities. As new platforms and formats emerge, many race to embrace and implement them. Attendees now have a wide variety of options beside the traditional conference education.
7. Conferences are not setup to promote innovation in learning and education sessions.
Innovation comes from the freedom to connect new ideas in new ways. Most conferences only allow presenters to connect ideas in prescribed ways which often serve as a barrier to learning. Conferences reward speakers that have new research instead of innovation and improvements in education.
8. Appropriate metrics for conference education sessions are rare.
Traditionally, conferences use smile sheets and emotional factors to evaluate if their conference education is of value. Similarly, conference speakers are rarely held accountable for their presentations. Until standards and appropriate metrics are put into place, continuous improvement in conference education will not occur.
9. Conference host organization infrastructures are under resourced when it comes to conference education.
Most conference hosting organizations lack a good infrastructure with a focus on programming and education. They allow are under-resourced and lack professional educator involvement.
10. Conferences lack adequate data for decision making.
Most conferences keep poor data about their conference stakeholders’ involvement. Therefore, they are not able to mine that data for good decision making for their conferences.
What are some other challenges the conference education sessions face? Which of these ten challenges do you see occurring in your conferences?