Part 2: Ten Industrial-Strength Awesome Trends Poised To Disrupt Your Conference Education


More powerful than your current offerings.

More effective than your current industrial-strength-stupid monologues and ineffective-panel-methods.

These trends are poised to give you the upper hand and differentiate you from your competitors or send your conference committee suggestions into a downward spiral that will take years to recover from.

Take heed. These trends will be knocking on your conference door whether you realize it or not.

The Next Five Industrial-Strength Education Trends

As a recap, here are the first five trends discussed in yesterday’s post:

  1. Transformational Learning Instead Of Informational Learning
  2. Focus On Adaptable Challenges Not Technical Challenges
  3. Lossless Learning
  4. Appointment Learning Mixed With Just In Need Opportunities
  5. Micro-Learning Before, During And After The Conference

Here are the next five awesome education trends.

6. Competency Based Sessions Instead Of Compliance Based

Simulations, scenario-based exercises and real-world applications rule in 21st Century conference education sessions. Distributing facts and knowledge for memorization for credit or to pass a test for certification is quickly becoming a commodity. Organizations are moving to competency based certifications which require a different type of learning session. Online companies like Flat World are giving organizations the ability to use adaptive learning, analytics, and competency based tools instead of just knowledge-based assessments for certifications.

7. Post-Conference Job Aids And Learning Prompts

The learning research about our forgetting and memory curves is prevalent. The goal of most education sessions is relevant takeaways that we apply back on the job. But our brain can’t recall everything. Research by learning professionals like Dr. Will Thalheimer show that if we provide some type of post-conference job aid or learning prompt, our audiences are more likely to remember and apply their learnings.

8. Radically Revised Smile Sheet Evaluations

Few conferences actually provide adequate evaluation strategies. Some provide smile sheet strategies that are grossly biased as Dr. Will Thalheimer has proven. His research and writings show a better smile sheet strategy to use that is more effective.

9. The Conference Content Weaver

The traditional emcee role is morphing into a more instructionally sound facilitated conference content weaver. This person frames general sessions and overarching issues connecting threads and context of pivotal content. The conference content weaver asks provocative questions, guides audiences to watch and listen for specific things and provides more intentionality to a conference experience than the traditional emcee.

10. Meetings With Impact

Many conferences start with a goal of changing attendees’ attitudes, behaviors and skills. However, they use outdated lecture models that fall short. The only way to change people’s minds is to work with their existing knowledge and experience. We have to empathize with their perspectives. The next step is to move beyond facts with stories and visuals that resonate with participants and align with the biology of the brain. That is followed by strategic-conversation-exercises that include audience participation. Meetings with impact move beyond the traditional transmission and reception of information to focusing on the art and science of designing and engaging participants in strategic conversations about adaptive challenges. The result is transformational learning!

BONUS: Rise Of The Strategic, Education-Professional As Meeting Steward

The boundaries between a meeting planner and education professionals are blending. Effective conference education requires a professional who knows, understands, applies and coaches others to apply the current learning research to adult education. Scheduling speakers is no longer enough. Allowing committee volunteers to select and secure speakers and content is like allowing neighborhood volunteers to oversee your child’s schooling. It’s time to become more professional and transition volunteers into advisory roles with an expertise on the content and away from planning conference curriculum and instructional design!

Which of these trends is your organization ready to adopt and apply? Which of these trends do you think you will research more to discuss with your conference team and committee members and why do you think they are important?

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  1. Jeff, what I always appreciate about you (and the other VelChain writers) is your ability to cut to the heart of the matter and also offer practical takeaways which can be applied by meeting professionals. While we have seen many meetings positively (for their organizations and people) evolve there is still much that can continue to benefit from your learnings and suggested applications. Even if you are reading this and think “I can’t do all that” – you don’t have to -try one thing at a time, test it, seek the results through surveys and open discussion, and then try adding a next thing. Let’s get people using the information we have sought so hard to include by making it digestible for them. As always, thanks.

  2. I’ll second Tahira’s comment.

    The ideas promoted by Velvet Chainsaw are so appropriate to our times and so needed in our industry. Creating environments that are conducive to learning and networking, and focussing on the attendee experience first are possible. Conference/meeting design is adaptable. Just because it’s convenient to continue using traditional models doesn’t mean we have to. Convenient is not necessarily best. In fact, it often leads us wrong.

    Bonus: I love your bonus point. Conference design needs more grounding in applied educational theories. (of course, you are speaking my language since I have a MA in Education in Curriculum Design and Implementation – phew, that’s a mouthful!) and believe that current education (and neuroscience) research supports innovative conference design –> get people moving more, get people talking more, get people eating food and drinking water that enhances learning, get people to take responsibility for their individual learning (and learning styles) by empowering them to act on their needs and wants, get them to play more and get them to sleep more!

    I’m extremely excited by where we are heading. Meetings have a bright future as we continue to design them to enhance learning and networking and stop designing them as one-size-fits-all experiences.

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