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All I want for Christmas is an unFUBARed SM feed

FUBAR
acronym

  1. Google it.

FUBARed SM feed
noun phrase

  1. A social media (SM) platform feed that is not a chronological list of all posts, and only those posts.

I am sick of social media platforms deciding for me what I should see. (Read this entire post for a rare exception.)

Every major social media platform started with a simple chronological feed of all the posts from all the people you chose to follow/be “friends” with.

But every platform subsequently FUBARed their social media feed. They dropped some posts entirely, and added content that you had never asked for.

  • Facebook’s news feed has been FUBARed since 2009.
  • YouTube has been messing around with search ranking of videos since 2012.
  • LinkedIn’s homepage feed became FUBARed in 2016, when the company folded in its “Pulse” content.
  • Twitter’s timeline got FUBARed in 2016. (You can turn off their adding “tweets you are likely to care about most”, but they still insert tweets “we think you might be interested in” into your timeline.)
  • Instagram stopped chronologically listing posts in 2016.
  • Google Plus has fussed around with its home feed algorithm for several years, but it doesn’t matter because — and I wish this wasn’t true — Google Plus is dead.

Here are three reasons SM channels do this. Feel free to add more in the comments.

  1. They want to add sponsored paid content (aka advertisements) so they can make money.
  2. They want to create incentives (like “boosting” your Facebook posts) to pay them to let more people see your posts.
  3. They know that some of their users — the ones who “friend” or “follow” everyone — would quickly withdraw from their service if the resulting torrent of requested posts were actually provided.

No one likes reason #1 but we understand why SM platforms do it. They need to make money to stay in business. Fair enough.

Reason #2 is really damaging to the concept of a SM channel as a reliable communications tool. Old media doesn’t have this option: when you buy the paper or watch TV you receive the same content as everyone else. But today, two users who follow the exact same people on Facebook may see very different feeds, thanks to Facebook’s secret and ever-changing algorithm. Essentially, Facebook makes the feed unreliable so the company can make additional revenues. I find this unreliability infuriating, and it’s why I use Facebook as little as possible.

Reason #3 is understandable — but what’s annoying is there’s no way to turn this behavior off! It would be easy for SM channels to default to their algorithmic filtering but provide an option for users to say, “Just give me everything I’ve said I wanted to see. Yes, I know I’ll still get all the ads you insert, but I’d really like not to miss anything else.” I guess that they worry too many people would choose to see everything, and the incentive for organizations to pay them to boost content eyeballs would be reduced. In fact, I suspect that only a small percentage of users (like me) would pick this option.

Ultimately, I want a social media channel that doesn’t filter. I suspect I’m not alone. Let me pick what I want to see, and let me see it. All of it.

Is that too much to ask?

A reward for those who’ve read this far — an unFUBARed SM feed!
I know one way to get an unFUBARed SM feed. From Twitter, no less — use Twitter Lists! If you create a private Twitter list of people whose tweets you want to see, you can view the resulting stream on Twitter at https://twitter.com/YourTwitterID/lists/NameOfYourList or via other Twitter clients like TweetDeck and the list is chronological and unfiltered! (Please don’t tell ’em; they’d probably FUBAR it immediately.)

Do you know other ways to get unFUBARed SM feeds? Feel free to share in the comments!

Everybody likes me, nobody tweets me, guess I’ll post on LinkedIn

The effectiveness of Twitter as a connective social media channel is declining
In July I wrote about why 2017 is a tipping point for Twitter, noting that the rate at which users follow established accounts has slowed dramatically. As the year draws to a close I’m seeing further evidence that conversations in the twittersphere are drying up too. 

Read the rest of this entry »

When the audience can’t stop talking about what they did

Last week, I led The Solution Room for a group of New York City attorneys. When it ended at 8 pm, after two hours of continuous intense conversation and connection, no one left. The participants, despite having worked a full day before my evening session, hung around and talked and swapped business cards while venue workers patiently reset the room for the law firm’s next business day.

For me, having people unwilling to leave after one of my sessions is over is a sign of success. It’s an example of what Set Godin calls viral work.

Important work is easily dismissed by the audience. It involves change and risk and thought.
Popular work resonates with the people who already like what you do.
Viral work is what happens when the audience can’t stop talking about what you did.

Every once in awhile, all three things will co-exist, but odds are, you’re going to need to choose.
—Seth Godin, Important, popular or viral

I like Seth’s definition of viral work, but I’d change one word to better describe my facilitative work.

“Viral work is what happens when the audience can’t stop talking about what they did.”

Because, it’s not about me.

How often do you get to do viral work? Share your successes in the comments below!

[P.S. I don’t usually photograph the challenge representations drawn by Solution Room participants because they can contain personal information, but I made an exception for the charming image that graces this post.]

The hype and reality of personalized learning

Billions of dollars are being spent on personalized learning in K-12 education, with 97% of US school districts investing in this hot educational trend. But what is “personalized learning” and are these efforts worthwhile?

A recent Education Week article The Case(s) Against Personalized Learning” by Benjamin Herold includes interesting research findings slotted into a confusing narrative.

Herold begins by describing personalized learning as a high-tech, well-funded push for schools to install computer-based lessons that supposedly monitors each student’s responses and “personalizes” subsequent lesson plans. He then goes on to outline arguments that the hype for this agenda “outweighs the research”, that this kind of personalized learning is “bad for teachers and students”, and that “critics are worried that ‘personalized learning’ is cover for an aggressive push by the tech industry to turn K-12 education into a giant data-mining enterprise.”

Given Herold’s initial framing, it’s unsurprising that the article is full of competing perspectives. Juicy journalism perhaps, but the result is that the various authorities quoted talk past each other because they have different preconceptions of what personalized learning is.

Much of this confusion can eliminated if we think of personalized learning as a spectrum, with two extremes defined by Dan Buckley as: the

…”the T-route, in which the educational route the learner takes is controlled, decided and evaluated ultimately by the Teacher, and P-route in which the route that the learner takes is controlled, decided and evaluated by Peers (or Pupils if you prefer).”
The PbyP Approach, Dan Buckley

For example from the article, the author of Schooling Beyond Measure, Alfie Kohn’s view that:

“…much of what’s marketed as ‘personalized learning’ amounts to little more than breaking knowledge and ideas down into itty-bitty parts, then using extrinsic rewards to march kids through a series of decontextualized skills they had no meaningful role in choosing.”

is a dismissal of the T-route, while Diane Tavenner, the CEO of California’s Summit Public Schools charter network, who says:

“…the strongest personalized-learning models offer the best of what both conservatives and progressives want: high-quality standards and content for students, with opportunities to apply that knowledge via self-directed projects, all supplemented by human mentors and technology tools that help students keep track of their own learning.”

is claiming that Summit’s technology platform and instructional model, developed with support from Facebook and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, represents a successful mixture of the T- and P- routes.

Which brings us to my interest in this topic as a student and facilitator of adult learning — which is not mentioned in the article. (To be fair, Education Week confines itself to K-12 education — though you wouldn’t guess that from its name.)

The energetic disagreements documented by Herold are fueled by society’s three mutually incompatible ideas about children’s education (i.e. making good citizens, mastering certain bodies of knowledge, and fulfilling each student’s unique potential) as laid out in Kieran Egan’s thought-provoking book The Educated Mind. These societal goals, however imperfectly attained, imply the need for a mixture of T- and P- route learning strategies since teachers will always be needed to facilitate the understanding of ideas that have taken centuries for the human race to discover and which society insists are important for young minds to grasp.

For adults, on the other hand, I’d argue that the P- route is by far the dominant successful learning paradigm. In a world where the job you’ll be doing in ten years time probably hasn’t been invented yet — the story of my life since I was in my 20’s — self-directed, active, peer-supported, just-in-time learning is the default mode for most professionals these days. Every adult learner and meeting attendee needs to create their own environment and structure for life-long personalized learning if they are to be optimally effective in the world of work.

Arguments about how we should educate children will likely (and should) never end, but the case for P-route personalized learning in the adult world of work has never been stronger. And until default meeting process reflects this reality, our meetings will be pale shadows of what they could be.

Image attribution: edusurge

What your conference evaluations are missing

One of the easiest, yet often neglected, ways for meeting professionals to improve their craft is to obtain (and act on!) client feedback after designing/producing/facilitating an event. I like to schedule a thirty-minute call at a mutually convenient date one or two weeks after the event, giving the client time to decompress and process attendee evaluations.

During a recent call for an event that I designed and facilitated, a client shared his conference evaluation summaries that rated individual sessions and the overall conference experience.

This particular annual conference uses a peer conference format every few years. The client believes that the Conferences That Work design introduces attendees to a wider set of peer resources and conversations at the event. An addition this year, The Solution Room, was a highly rated session for building connections and getting useful, confidential peer consulting on individual challenges.

As the client and I talked, we realized that the evaluations had missed an important component. We were trying to decide how frequently the organization should alternate a peer conference format with more traditional approaches. Yet we had no attendee feedback on how participants viewed the effectiveness of the annual event for:

  • making useful new connections;
  • building relationships;
  • getting current professional wants and needs met; and
  • building community.

Adding ratings of these KPIs to conference evaluations provides useful information about how well each event performs in these areas. Over time, it allows conveners to see if/how peer conference formats improve these metrics. I also suggested that we include Net Promoter Scores in future evaluations.

The client quickly decided to include these ratings in future conference evaluations. Our retrospective call helped us to improve how participants evaluate his events. providing data that will feed more informed decisions about future conference design decisions.

Do your evaluations allow attendees to rate the connection and just-in-time learning effectiveness of your meeting? Do they rate how well your meeting met current professional wants and needs? If not, consider adding these kinds of questions to all your evaluations, allowing you to obtain data over time on the meeting designs and formats that serve your participants best.

I know the world is crazy right now — and here’s what you can do about it

“I know the world is crazy right now. I know it’s hard to find the good in the news but you won’t find it there because the news asks you to be only a passive consumer of the world’s pain and joy. What we need to do is rise from our seats and participate in the world as fully as possible.”
Chris Corrigan, Pick up the unclaimed portion of joy

Illustration from The Never-Ending Play Of Life, in which Bernie De Koven is quoted by Chris.

Four tools for communities of practice

HT Harold Jarche

Today, communities of practice — groups of people who share a common interest, profession, or passion and actively engage around what they have in common — have become essential sources for productive learning, because they provide crucial bridges for social learning between our work community and our external social networks.

Here are four tools for creating, supporting, and enriching communities of practice.

Peer Conferences
In my post Conferences as Communities of Practice I explain how peer conferences can support communities of practice. (In 1992, the first peer conference I ever designed created a community of practice that has endured to this day.)

Listservs
Listservs are an old but still surprisingly useful technology that manages a list of subscribers and allows any member to send one email to the list, which then transparently sends it to the other list subscribers. Listserv software is available on multiple platforms and is free for up to ten lists of up to five hundred subscribers which should be sufficient for most communities of practice. While numerous commercial alternatives like Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups exist, there’s something to be said for self-hosted technology that doesn’t rely on third party providers who may close down or change services with little notice or recourse.

Slack
Slack can be used free for basic support of communities of practice (up to 10,000 messages), though many useful functions are only available in paid versions ($80+ per person annually). All Slack content is searchable. The product, initially targeted at organizations, has been evolving into a community platform, which, because of the cost is probably most useful for communities whose members already have corporate access.

Zoom
The ability to converse with community members via audio/video/chat on a scheduled or ad hoc basis is an important tool for maintaining and growing community connections online. For many years the free Google Hangouts was my go to tool for this purpose, but the service has become almost impossible to use on an ad hoc basis and Zoom seems to be the most popular replacement. For short meetings (up to a maximum of 100 participants for 40 minutes) the free Zoom Basic will suffice, but most communities will be well served by Zoom Pro (unlimited duration and participants; $180/year). Since any community member who has a paid Zoom plan can host a video/web conference, this tool can be a cost-effective way for communities of practice to keep in touch.

Do you use other tools to create, support, and enrich your communities of practice? If so, share them in the comments below!

Six reasons to change our conferences

In my keynote at Blend Abu Dhabi, the inaugural meeting industry conference at the new Yas Conference Centre, I shared six reasons why the meetings industry must change conference formats to stay relevant to today’s attendees.

Although I’ve written about these issues before, this is the first time they’ve been summarized in one place. Together they make a strong business case for the participant-driven and participation-rich meetings I’ve been advocating since 1992.

Enjoy!

Sessions provide no connection around content
Today, the most important reason why people go to conferences is to usefully connect with others around relevant content. But our conference programs still focus on lectures, where a few experts broadcast their knowledge to passive listeners: the audience. During lectures there’s no connection between audience members; no connection around lecture content.

At traditional conferences, connection is relegated to the breaks, meals, and socials! That’s why you so often hear “the best part of that conference was the conversations in the hallways”. It doesn’t have to be that way! Peer conferences provide conference sessions where participants connect around relevant, timely content.

Lectures are a terrible way to learn
We’ve known for over a hundred years that lectures are a terrible way to learn something. Lectures are a seductive meeting format because they are very efficient ways of sharing information. Unfortunately, lectures are perhaps the least effective way of learning anything.

Why? Over time, we rapidly forget most everything we’ve been told. But when we engage with content, we remember more of it, remember it more accurately, and remember it longer. Every measure of learning increases drastically when attendees actively participate while learning in sessions.

The rise of online
Most broadcast content is now readily available online. Expert content is available anywhere with an internet connection, just in time when it’s needed. You don’t need to go to conferences for broadcast content (which you’ll probably have forgotten by the time you need it) any more!

Professionals learn predominantly socially, not in the classroom
Until about twenty years ago, professionals learned most of what they needed to know to do their jobs in the classroom. Today we know that only about 10% of what we need to know to do our jobs involves formal classroom teaching. The other 90% is informal, provided by a combination of self-directed learning and social, active, experiential learning with our peers on the job or (what an opportunity!) at conferences with our peers.

Though ~90% of the learning modalities adult workers need these days are informal social learning from our peers, we persist in making the bulk of “education” at meetings formal presentations by a few experts! Instead, we need to concentrate on and provide maximum opportunities for the just-in-time peer learning our attendees need and want.

Today, everyone has expertise and experience to share
Everyone who has worked in a profession for a while is a expert resource for some of her or his peers. Instead of limiting content to broadcast by a few “experts”, peer conferences provide process and support to uncover and tap the thousands of years of expertise and experience in the room. Remember how David Weinberger puts it: “the smartest person in the room is the room.” We need conference process that uncovers and taps everyone’s experience and expertise while people are together at the conference!

Most pre-scheduled sessions don’t address actual attendee wants and needs
Because we’ll forget learning that isn’t currently needed and reinforced, conferences need to provide just-in-time learning, and you can’t predict most of the just-in-time learning by asking a program committee, or attendees for that matter, in advance. My research has found that 50 – 90% of all pre-scheduled conference sessions are not what attendees actually want and need! In contrast, just about all peer conference sessions, chosen and run by participants during the event, are rated highly because they provide the just-in-time learning and connection that participants want from the event.

Conclusion
All of these themes are explored in detail in my first two books. To get the full story, buy ’em!

Another triumph of automated marketing!

Hapless automated marketing abounds. Here’s an email I received this morning:

Subject:  Love Your Content (Collaboration Proposal)
“My name is RJ, I am the main editor at [a website about car care].

I just wanted to send you a quick email to let you know that we recently released a comprehensive blog post on “How Much!? Replacing A Catalytic Converter”.

While browsing your site, I noticed this page
http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/facilitating-change/2014/09/a-caveat-on-working-with-human-catalysts.

I believe our piece would be a great addition to your page.”

RJ “believes” his/her post would be “a great addition” to this post:

 

I am receiving more and more hapless automated marketing efforts like this: no careful thought, no subtlety, no serious attempt to check that the target might be relevant to the pitch.

Just spray and pray.

Perhaps some “marketer” thought that instead of just scraping page titles that mentioned the phrase “catalytic converter” (which might make more sense) they could increase the volume of useless mass emails (and extract more money from their client?) by expanding their target search to anyone who mentions the phrase anywhere on the page.

The only reason my post mentions “catalytic converter” is as an example of what the word “catalyst” means. Otherwise, it has as much in common with RJ’s content as a toothbrush has to a lunar eclipse.

Compare this waste of time and resources with an example of marketing done right.

Experienced and respected marketers have told me that expanding your email list is crucial to getting your message across, and I believe them.

But finding and/or creating the right email list are clearly crucial too, and every misdirected pitch I get like this one gives good marketers a black eye.

Please stop it guys!

Image attribution: Flickr user pnglife