Elevate Your Conference Education

There’s never been a better time than right now to reimagine your education programming for your first in-person conference in some time, for many—in over two years. All those changes you’ve dreamed of trying can now become a reality.

Conference education sessions have long been considered the main course of the event, yet typically they reek of status quo. That simply won’t work anymore.


During the last 20 months we have all been a part of a global digital experiment and we have relied on the Internet to help us find solutions to our problems. In order to attract people to register, you must demonstrate that you understand their challenges and have curated the right experts to help them make sense of the content they’re drowning in.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to organize your education sessions into challenge-based (not role-based) learning tracks. To improve impact, appoint a Track Leader with experience in that track’s challenge and in facilitating group discussions.

The Role of Track Leaders

Track Leaders connect the dots and weave the threads of the track’s narrative, overarching issues and themes. Similar to an emcee, the Track Leader opens and closes each day asking provocative questions and framing the context of the track’s learning opportunities. Ideally, they connect unifying factors between each session and kick-start audience engagement.

As research has shown, learning doesn’t happen through listening to one-way lectures. It’s important that the Track Leader challenges attendees to carve out intentional time to engage with peers and reflect on the important content being shared. This helps participants identify the big ideas and how to apply them to their work.

I can promise you this, if you don’t reimagine your education sessions to allow for attendees to share their ideas and applications with each other during the sessions, they will convene in your hallways and lobbies and stop coming into your concurrent rooms.

A Track Leader:

  • Acts as a bridge between the audience, the content and the speaker(s).
  • Identifies big provocative questions and ideas that participants should listen for during presentations.
  • Introduces concepts and presenters. Keeps sessions moving and improvises as needed or directed.
  • Makes intentional opening and closing remarks to reinforce and thread the content, context and learning experience.
  • If needed, moderates panels and conducts interviews with subject matter experts, which often includes audience participation activities.

Now is the time to take a fresh approach to modernizing and refreshing the main course of your conference. Well over 50 percent of your audience will most likely be attending for the first time and the rest will be expecting changes. Don’t waste this opportunity.

What would it take for you to execute on tracks and track leaders? What other ideas do you have to modernize your education programming?



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  1. Mary Byers says:

    YES! Associations are in the business of sense making, way finding and map making for members. I love the idea of challenge-based tracks and having track leaders to help light the way.

  2. Sarah Michel says:

    Thanks Mary!

  3. Jim Bennett says:

    Love the concept, finding the right track leader who is motivated to “own” the thought process around the challenge is key to getting possible solution related answers for the audience to create change verse just “talking about it”

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