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Conferences That Work
innovative conference formats that reliably build
highly interactive, participant-led events,
leveraging attendee expertise and experience to
create exactly the conference that participants need and want.

"Simply the most productive conference I've been to."



Do you want to make your current face-to-face conference "can't miss" better, even as more and more content becomes available online? Are you wondering how to successfully start a new conference? Are your events suffering from falling attendance, evaluations, or profits? I can help!

I'll help you create engaging conferences around the learning your attendees really want and need. Conferences designed to build meaningful, mutually beneficial connections between participants. Conferences that help people work smarter and lead to action.

For over 25 years I've been designing and facilitating Conferences That Work: innovative, highly interactive, attendee-driven events that leverage attendees' expertise and experience to create just the conference that participants want. If desired, you can include traditional plenary sessions to create an event experience that will delight your attendees.

I'm available for consultation on your conference (re)design, facilitate entire conferences, individual sessions, and session crowdsourcing, present regularly about participant-led and participation-rich events, and lead interactive workshops on participation techniques anyone can use to improve their conference sessions. I also offer two popular sessions—The Solution Room and The Personal Introspective—that provide powerful opportunities for participants to connect, engage, and learn at your event.

My 2009 book, Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love condenses 30 years experience designing, organizing, and facilitating conferences into an information-packed step-by-step guide to a proven design for creating productive conferences that people love.

My latest book, The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action, is a comprehensive guide to participation techniques that increase learning, connection, engagement, and outcomes at any conference session.

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  • 20 Jun 2016 - 23 Jun 2016: edACCESS 2016 25th annual conference, New Hampton School, New Hampton, NH.
    The premier conference for information technology professional staff at small schools. Adrian designed and will facilitate the entire four-day conference.
  • 26 Jul 2016 - 27 Jul 2016: Michigan Community College Association Presidents' Institute, The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan.
    Adrian will be facilitating a one-day Conferences That Work workshop for the Presidents of Michigan's Community Colleges.
  • 21 Sep 2016 - 24 Sep 2016: FinCon peer conference for personal finance media, San Diego.
    FinCon is a peer conference for personal finance media. 1,000+ of the best bloggers and financial minds around today participate to connect, learn to create compelling online content, and discover the latest trends in the world of personal finance. FinCon is an annual event with a dual mission:

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From The Blog:

May 23, 2016

Participatory voting at events: Part 2—Low-tech versus high-tech solutions

GMIC 2014 crowdstormingIn Part 1 of this series I defined participatory voting and we explored the different ways to use it to obtain public information about viewpoints and participants in the room, paving the way for further useful discussions and conversations.

There is no shortage of high-tech systems that can poll an audience. Commonly known as ARSs, Student Response Systems (SRSs), or “clickers,” these systems combine an audience voting method—a custom handheld device, personal cell phone/smartphone, personal computer, etc.—with a matched receiver and software that processes and displays responses.

Here are three reasons why high-tech ARSs may not be the best choice for participatory voting:

  • ARSs necessitate expense and/or time to set up for a group. No-tech and low-tech approaches are low or no cost and require little or no preparation.
  • Most ARS votes are anonymous; no one knows who has voted for what. When you are using voting to acquire information about participant preferences and opinions, as opposed to deciding between conflicting alternatives, anonymous voting is rarely necessary. (An exception is if people are being asked potentially embarrassing questions.) When a group of people can see who is voting for what (and, with some techniques, even the extent of individual agreement/disagreement), it’s easy to go deeper into an issue via discussion or debate.
  • Participatory voting techniques involve more movement than pushing a button on an ARS device. This is important, because physical movement improves learning. Some techniques include participant interaction, which also improves learning.

That’s why I prefer no-tech and low-tech techniques for participatory voting whenever possible. No-tech techniques require only the attendees themselves, while low-tech approaches use readily available and inexpensive materials such as paper and pens.

Wondering what no-tech and low-tech techniques can be used for participatory voting? Here’s a list, taken from a glossary of participation techniques covered in detail in my book The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action.

Body/Continuum Voting: See Human Spectrograms.

Card Voting: Provides each participant with an identical set of colored cards that can be used in flexible ways: typically for voting on multiple-choice questions, consensus voting, and guiding discussion.

Dot Voting: A technique for public semi-anonymous voting where participants are given identical sets of one or more colored paper dots which they stick onto paper voting sheets to indicate preferences.

Hand/Stand Voting: In hand voting, participants raise their hands to indicate their answer to a question with two or more possible answers. Stand voting replaces hand raising with standing.

Human Graphs: See Human Spectrograms.

Human Spectrograms: Also known as body voting, continuum voting, and human graphs. A form of public voting that has participants move in the room to a place that represents their answer to a question. Human spectrograms can be categorized as one-dimensional, two-dimensional, or state-change.

Idea swap: A technique for anonymous sharing of participants’ ideas.

One-dimensional Human Spectrograms: Human Spectrograms where participants position themselves along a line in a room to portray their level of agreement/disagreement with a statement or a numeric response (e.g. the number of years they’ve been in their current profession.)

Plus/Delta: A review tool that enables participants to quickly identify what went well at a session or event and what could be improved.

Post It!: A simple technique that employs participant-written sticky notes to uncover topics and issues that a group wants to discuss.

Roman Voting: Roman Voting is a public voting technique for gauging the strength of consensus.

State-change Human Spectrograms: Human Spectrograms where participants move en masse from one point to another to display a change of some quantity (e.g. opinion, geographical location, etc.) over time.

Table Voting: A technique used for polling attendees on their choice from pre-determined answers to a multiple-choice question, and/or for dividing participants into preference groups for further discussions or activities.

Thirty-Five: A technique for anonymously evaluating participant ideas.

Two-dimensional Human Spectrograms: Human Spectrograms where participants position themselves in a two-dimensional room space to display relative two-dimensional information (e.g. where they live with reference to a projected map.)

And what are public, semi-anonymous, and anonymous voting? We’ll explain these different voting types and explore when they should be used in the third part of this series.

 

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I just loved the format – I can’t stand the thought of attending all the conferences on my calendar that have the standard format!

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