15 Myths We Hold As Truths About Conference Education

Lies by Ged Carroll, on Flickr

We all believe in myths.

Some of us don’t know that our own personal beliefs are actually based on fiction.

Some of us hold on to our own personal experiences as supporting evidence of our beliefs. We don’t realize that our realities are often grounded in confirmation bias. We fail prey to the adage, “But I know better because my own experience says so.”

Confirmation Bias

We like people who think like us. If we agree with someone’s beliefs, we are more likely to be their friend. If we dislike their beliefs, we often refuse to listen to them.

We subconsciously ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our beliefs. We surround ourselves with people who believe like we do.

Scientists call this confirmation bias. It is the tendency to favor information that confirms our presumptions. We are inclined to seek info that validates our opinions, not a diversity of views.

We place greater emphasis on our first-hand experience as evidence that supports our existing belief. It causes us to interpret everything we read and hear as evidence that upholds our beliefs. We forget that our own experience can lead us astray as our minds do not consider the facts, (we feel before we think). And our minds remember things in a way that reinforces our bias.

15 Conference Education Myths

Here are 15 conference education myths, mostly grounded in confirmation bias.

1. Experts don’t require any special presentation skills.

2. Telling people what to do is the best method for learning so we don’t have to focus on learning design.

3. We learn best listening to lectures because it’s how we learned in school.

4. My experience proves I’m a _____________________ learner. (Fill in the blank with auditory, visual, kinesthetic learner.)

5. The audience’s satisfaction with the presentation means they learned something.

6. The more content a speaker covers the more the audience learns.

7. Offering a cornucopia of topics is better for our audience.

8. We can hand knowledge to an audience through the spoken word.

9. Training leads to job behavior change.

10. Our education is fine because it’s the way we’ve always done it.

11. Science, technology, engineering, mathematical and medical audiences will not participate in small group discussions or interactivity.

12. If the audience is looking at the speaker, they are engaged.

13. Panels are the best method of presenting different viewpoints that leads to learning.

14. The longer the audience sits quietly in chairs listening to an expert, the more they learn and can recall.

15. Technology is the key to learning success.

What other conference education myths would you add to the list? What tips do you have for busting these myths with conference stakeholders?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  1. I love this list – it is such a good start to how meeting design is still not part of the spectrum of diverse skills meeting professionals need to bring as part of the toolkit. We often rely on program committees who each bring their own biases and tend to put in the style of session based learning they are used to without question. You and the Velvet Chainsaw team and many others have so many great options that could be tried even in small bites to make meetings more meaningful.

    Also agree about technology – unless the objectives can be articulated and supported with whatever you choose… choose well and then maximize it. I love a recent example we have with Jive Software who not only gamified their event but clearly knew why and the results were awesome. I love when anything is used well to enhance a meeting experience. https://community.jivesoftware.com/community/jivetalks/blog/2013/11/21/to-gamify-or-not-to-gamify-for-conferences-there-is-no-question

    It is not to say that would be right for everyone – but whatever we can do to move the status quo, why not try? Keep talking!

  2. Stuart says:

    Love this list, Jeff. Association planners often struggle with changing their formats and are too risk averse in room sets and stage design/set, both of which I think are profound mistakes and missed opportunities to deliver quality education. There’s also a lingering myth that you can’t learn something in a 15-25 minute TED-style talk…which is grossly inaccurate (in my experience).

  3. […] journalists and future journalists, this is a nice little example of applying the stuff of cognitive bias and error to everyday affairs. In this case, the theory is […]

Leave a comment

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