As conference organizers, we frequently ignore the evidence all around us of what’s working and what’s not.
That evidence is everywhere. It’s just that we don’t know what to do with it once we have it.
Often our conference planning teams and volunteer advisors follow our lead as we give more precedent to what feels right. Together, we willingly ignore the evidence in favor of what’s worked in the past even if our past outcomes point to the fact that we should change. So before assuming we can persuade others with the data on why we need to change, we need to enroll them in our conference improvement planning process.
Consumers Of Change
When we’re the consumers of the change, we insist on evidence-based treatment.
We want doctors to help us get better by treating the root cause of our symptoms based on research and science not folklore and mysticism. We want software that works and doesn’t cause our computer to crash based on the evidence not software that that is hyped with cool gimmicky features. We want professors that can help us learn important topics effectively and quickly that will help us succeed backed by cognitive psychology research and science not based on years of outdated traditions.
In each of these situations—doctors, software, professors—we insist on data-proven solutions to help us improve.
Seeking Brave Participants Willing To Change
If we’re seeking to make improvements and changes to a conference, we should start by enrolling others.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines enroll as insert, register, enlist, and enter into a catalog, list or roll. We need to seek out volunteers who are willing to participate in the improvement process. We need to recruit others willing to look at the evidence and respond accordingly.
So before presenting the evidence, before assuming that people will change their expectations, beliefs and practices in response to the data, before we adopt the attitude that we can persuade them to follow the proof, we need to enroll them. We have to ask them for a commitment.
We have to ask them “If the evidence shows that we should do something differently, are you open to change? Are you open to experimenting? Are you open to trying something different?”
It takes courage to answer these questions.
It takes bravery to pledge “No matter what the evidence says, no matter how effective or ineffective this is shown to be, I’m going to stand on principal that we need to change because our outcomes are not what we expected. I’m not willing to stand on status quo, tradition, familiarity, repeating the past or my personal beliefs.”
Wanting to change and being willing to change is a big part of our work. The first agreement we should make with our improvement team members is to look at the evidence. Or not.
What keeps us from looking at the evidence and being willing to change? What type of data do we have already have in our hands for any conference improvement process?