June 2, 2016 by Jeff Hurt
Many conferences depend upon academic researchers to present at their event.
Yet that very research often puzzles their conference stakeholders. Even after their customers slice through the layers of jargon and technicalities, the research still seems mystifying.
Sometimes the research seems to capture a resounding “Well, duh!” from the audience. Other times, the research presented is so narrowly defined that it appears to lack real-life application. Often, the entire academic research approach seems to avoid attracting any possible real-world interest says author Jonathan Knee.
Here’s the irony of academic research and conferences.
Success in academia is achieved by persuading a technical audience of bona fide—not general—relevance states Knee. Ironically, a focus on practical application can be seen as a lack of seriousness in academia. It can even disqualify a research project.
So researchers focus on meeting their academic needs first before meeting the conference’s target market needs. Presenting at the conference is just another hoop they must jump through to gain credibility as an academic.
Then conference organizers, out of a feeling obligation to help these customers, allow them to present their research so they can meet their academic needs.
Do you see how all of this convolutes the conference’s purpose and mission? Do you see how suddenly the conference has become a vehicle to help researchers gain academic credibility at the cost of the paying attendee?
According to Knee, distinguished academic researchers often at the end of their careers do not feel the pressure to gain credibility from technical audiences. So they try to produce more accessible and relevant research to help their field progress.
Once again the bitter irony is that by this time, they appear to have lost the ability to communicate effectively with lay people. They’ve used academic and technical jargon so much that they can’t connect with the event audience that needs their findings.
Another bitter irony!
Sometimes conferences have focused so much on offering programming of the latest greatest academically sound research that they back themselves into a corner.
Most conference participants don’t really care about the research methods, process and goal. What they really care about is what the research means to their daily profession. And that is frequently absent from researchers presentations.
Too often, conferences that continue to offer academics end up having a conference of academics presenting to academics. They’ve lost touch with their target market. And they can’t figure out how to make more money because these academics have to be on the agenda in order to attend. And they have limited budgets as well.
This entire slow-moving quicksand ruse is like trapping a wild animal in a corner with nowhere to go. Everyone growls in horror and fear!
If your conference has become a conference of academic researchers presenting to academic researchers, you have some tough decisions to make. And it’s not going to be easy. You are going to upset someone, somewhere with those decisions.
What are some of the possible choices you have to make if your conference has become dependent upon academic researchers presenting? What changes can you make to bridge the gap of practical application of research and the researcher’s academic needs to present?
Filed Under: Event Planning
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