January 21, 2014 by Jeff Hurt
Which is more important to your attendees’ conference experience?
Delivery of information or discovery of content?
There lies the tension for 21st Century Conferences offering education sessions.
In most conference experiences, an attendee’s role is to consume information and knowledge that is hypothetically scarce.
A conference organzier’s role is defined by looking for ways to do what the conference already does better. It operates on the faulty premise that information, knowledge, speakers and education are scarce commodities.
Organizers look for new technology tools to better deliver content at the face to face experience. Or we look for technology tools that make the delivery of information more interactive and engaging.
In short, when delivery of information and knowledge is the key, we believe that conference education can be improved by removing speakers who have poor presentation skills, personalizing topics based on crowdsourcing technology tools and using technology to deliver a more media-rich experience.
Then conference organizers say “We’ve revolutionized our education.”
It’s still old thinking about education just in new wrappers. Sure it may appear jazzier but it’s just old, outdated, stale wine in new wine skins.
Ultimately, in the day and age of abundant information and knowledge at our fingertips, how does this better serve our attendees?
There is a better way for conferences to deliver real learning opportunities to their attendees in this huge disruptive world of change.
This isn’t about delivery of information and knowledge.
It’s about attendees’ real learning, not consumption of information. It’s about attendees’ attitude, behavior and skill change.
It’s about discovery of critical content, uncovering deeper understanding of issues and application of new ideas. It’s the moment of abundance of information, content and knowledge that makes this brand of real-life, inquiry-based learning much easier and more important to bring into conference education sessions.
Conference organizers focus on finding speakers that act as facilitators of learning opportunities that help attendees solve their most pressing issues. Education ceases to focus on consuming information or knowledge that is no longer scarce. Instead it’s about asking questions around immediate challenges, working with other attendees to find the answers and attendees doing the work of learning. It’s adding to the storehouse of knowledge that the web is becoming, not simply taking from it.
In short, conference education that focuses on attendee discovery helps attendees uncover critical content. We move from content mastery to learning mastery.
That means our attendees have more ownership over their own learning. They use their access to knowledge and speakers to create their own unique paths to the learning outcomes that are important.
We focus less on what attendees need to know and more on what they can do with what they know!
Conference education becomes real life, not simply a place to take courses, amass credits and consume information.
How can we begin to move conferences to become places of more relevant, connected, creative learning? What do we need to do to help irrelevant, old-school expectations transition to more learner-friendly expectations for our conferences?
Filed Under: Conference Education
Jeff, I really applaud your point of view in this post, and the intention I’ve felt on the blog. The one conference that, in my experience, has embodied what you’re talking about since Day 1 is the Next Generation of Government Summit, http://www.nextgengovt.com/. Your post could have been describing Steve Ressler, who co-founded Young Government Leaders (YGL) in 2003 and founded the GovLoop online community a few years later. If anyone wants to connect with Steve or Dave Uejio, YGL past president who continues to help with annual reinvention of the Summit, ping them on Twitter at @GovLoop (Steve) or @BureaucratJedi (Dave).
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