How to create amazing conference programs that don’t waste attendee time

Do your conference programs include pre-scheduled sessions you belatedly discover were of little interest or value to most attendees? If so, you’re wasting significant stakeholder and attendee time and money — your conference is simply not as good as it could be. Now imagine you could learn how to routinely create conference programs that reliably include the sessions attendees actually want and need? How much value would that add to your event; for your attendees, your sponsors, and your bottom line?

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Buy my new book—The Power of Participation—before July 1 at never-to-be-repeated prices

I’m happy to announce that my new book—The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action—will be available for purchase in all formats and outlets on June 30. But you can save money by purchasing directly from me before July 1 at never-to-be-repeated prices.

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The Power of Participation front cover square“This is a book that should be OPEN on every meeting planner’s or event marketer’s desk, and used every day.”
—Paul Salinger, VP of Marketing, Oracle (many more embarrassingly good reviews below)

Smart presenters and meeting organizers are integrating experiential learning and peer connection into their events. This book tells you how to do it. Buy The Power of Participation to learn why it’s so important to incorporate participant action into every aspect of your event, what you need to know to create a meeting environment that supports and encourages participation, and when and how to use this extensive compendium of specific, detailed techniques to radically improve your sessions and meetings.

The following prices for The Power of Participation are only available before July 1. On that date, this page will vanish like a dream.

Thirty minutes free consulting will be provided for any first-time purchase directly from this site.

Shipping paperbacks to U.S. addresses is included in these prices. Shipping paperbacks to addresses outside the United States will incur an additional cost, viewable for single copies once you have added items to your cart.

Table of Contents

Read five free chapters

Combo (Best Deal!)
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Paperback
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Ebook
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OR you can pre-order paperback copies (unsigned) online from Amazon’s U.S. store for $27.95 plus shipping (will ship July 1).

Praise for The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action.

“It may be a radical idea to turn attendees into participants, but in an environment of information overload and disconnection, we need it more than ever. The Power of Participation can transform how we act as workers, learners, citizens and ‘participants’ in our globalized world. This is a book that should be OPEN on every meeting planners or event marketers desk, and used every day.”
—Paul Salinger, VP of Marketing, Oracle

“This book is a must for anyone who needs guidance in modernizing meetings. Finally we are moving into a new stage of post industrial meetings where all participants are valued, not only those behind the microphone. Well designed participation is key, and Adrian shows us the way. Buy it, read it and do it!”
—Eric de Groot, Meeting Designer and co-author of Into the Heart of Meetings

“No one should plan a conference without this book!”
—Naomi Karten, Author of Managing Expectations

“We have to start meeting like this! A treasury of proven techniques, clearly written, based on first-person experience and deep insights.”
—Bernie DeKoven, Author of The Well Played Game, game designer, and fun theorist at deepfun.com

“Too many conferences are top-down, over-caffeinated, information dumps. Adrian Segar has figured out a different model: a participatory, community-driven event that yields benefits that last far beyond the conference itself. If you want to make a lasting difference with your group today, you owe it to yourself to read this book.”
—Dr. Nick Morgan, President of Public Words and author of Power Cues

“Love The Power of Participation! It’s a fabulous compilation of techniques to bring more interaction to your conferences. I’ll be keeping this reference book handy whenever I design a meeting for a client.”
—Kristin J. Arnold, CPF, CSP, founder of Quality Process Consultants, and past president of the National Speakers Association

“A must read handbook of the what, why and how to move passive conference consumer-based attendees to active engaged participants.”
—Jeff Hurt, Executive Vice President, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

“Adrian Segar’s work is crucial for the evolution of the event industry. This book is a mandatory read for the modern event professional. Adrian shares a logical approach to changing our outdated event designs, and guides you with practical techniques towards a value centered model, where the clear winners are both the conference organizer and the attendee. It’s time to shake up our conferences and make them more relevant and attractive. The Power of Participation provides the first step towards achieving conference success.”
—Julius Solaris, editor EventManagerBlog.com and author of The Event App Bible, Social Media for Events and The Good Event Registration Guide

“Adrian wants to transform attendees into participants. And in this book, he shows you how to do it. As an organizer of professional conferences for the past decade, I wish I had come across Adrian’s books earlier in my life. It would have made me more confident and competent.”
—Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan, Founder and Resident Mad Scientist, the Thiagi Group

“Adrian Segar’s The Power of Participation is a catalog of tools for designing meetings. If you want to improve your meetings, keep a copy right there on your desk, always ready for instant access. Better yet, study the tools in his catalog so they’re right there in your brain, always ready to build first-class meetings that everyone loves.”
—Gerald M. Weinberg, The Consultants’ Consultant, author of over 40 books, including classics The Psychology of Computer Programming and An Introduction to General Systems Thinking


The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action
Publisher: Segar Consulting
Release date: ebook: June 2015 | paper book: June 2015
Page count: 322
Size: 8½ x 11
ISBN:978-1511555982
List Price: $27.95 (Paperback book) | $13.95 (PDF ebook) | $33.95 (Paperback book and PDF ebook combo)
The ebook and paperback/ebook combo are available only directly from the author.

The Solution Room—an introductory video

The talented graphic facilitator Kristine Nygaard of Kiss the frog, whom I had the recent pleasure of meeting at FRESH 2013, has created a delightful one-minute video that introduces The Solution Room, a plenary session I facilitate for 20 – 300 people that engages and connects participants, and provides just-in-time peer support and answers to their most pressing professional problems. Thanks Kristine!

Enjoy!

Designing Participation Into Your Meetings

No, that’s not me up on the stage, and that’s not the kind of session I’ll be leading next Tuesday, May 22, at the MPI New England 2012 Northeast Education Conference, Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence.

My session Designing Participation Into Your Meetings will, unsurprisingly, include a fair number of interactive exercises: human spectrograms, pair share, The Three Questions, a mild experience of chaos, and others. My goal is to motivate participants to incorporate participant-driven and participation-rich design elements into their meetings.

I’d love to see you there!

The Solution Room—a powerful conference session

There’s been a lot of interest in The Solution Room, a session that I co-facilitated last July at Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress in Orlando, Florida. It is one of the most popular sessions I’ve been asked to facilitate at conferences this year. So here’s some information about the session…oh, and don’t miss the two-minute video of participant testimonials at the end of this post!

History
Ruud Janssen explains that the original concept was co-created onsite at Meeting Professionals International’s 2011 European Meetings & Events Conference by Linda PereiraMiranda IoannouMidori ConnollyRobert BenningaMike van der VijverSimon Bucknall, David Bancroft Turner, and Ruud himself. Ruud produced a short video of the original session, as well as a longer video of participant testimonials.

Minimum resources

  • Enough round tables seating 6-8 people for every participant to have a seat.
  • Flip chart paper that completely covers the tables, a plenty of colored markers at each table
  • Sufficient clear space in the room to hold a one-dimensional human spectrogram for all participants

Brief description
The Solution Room is a powerful conference session, typically lasting between 90-120 minutes, which not only engages and connects attendees, but also provides peer-supported advice on their most pressing problems. A session of 20 or more people (the format can handle hundreds of participants) starts with a short introduction followed by a human spectrogram that demonstrates the amount of experience available in the room. Next, participants are given some time to think of a problem or challenge they have for which they would like to receive peer advice. A second human spectrogram follows which maps participants’ comfort level.

Participants are now divided into small groups of 6-8 people, each group sharing a round table covered with flip chart paper and plenty of colored markers. The group members are then asked to individually mindmap their problem on the paper in front of them. Each participant in turn then has the same amount of time to explain his or her problem or challenge to the others at the table and receive advice and support.

For a public group evaluation, two final human spectrograms map the shift in comfort level of all the participants and the likelihood that participants will try to change what they’ve just shared.

A two-minute video of testimonials from my Solution Room session at the 2011 Meeting Professionals International World Education Conference in Orlando, Florida

Photo attribution: Flickr user tnoc

Participation techniques you can use in conference sessions

Here’s the summary handout for my workshop on participation techniques you can use in conference sessions that I’ll be leading at MPI’s World Education Congress 2011. Sources for additional information on these techniques can be found in the notes at the end of the list.

Technique: Setting ground rules ‡*
Brief description: Setting ground rules before other activities commence clarifies and unifies participants’ expectations.
When to use: Start of session, workshop, or conference.
Helpful for: Setting the stage for collaboration and participation, by giving people permission and support for sharing with and learning from each other. Increases participants’ safety and intimacy.
Resources needed: Paper or online list of ground rules.

Technique: Human spectrogram
Brief description: People stand along a line (one dimension) or in a room space (two dimensions) to answer session questions (factual or opinions).
When to use: Usually at the start of a session. Can be used as an icebreaker before or during the three questions.
Helpful for: Allowing participants and the group to discover commonalities. Can also be used to pick homogeneous or heterogeneous groups/teams. Also can be used to hear a spectrum of comments on an issue and then view any resulting shifts in opinion. Gets people out of their chairs!
Resources needed: A clear corridor space between walls (one-dimension), or a clear room (two dimensions).

Technique: The three questions *
Brief description: Three questions answered in turn by every participant to the entire group within a given time limit, typically 1½ – 3 minutes.
How did I get here?
– What do I want to have happen?
– What experience do I have that others may find useful?

When to use: Normally, right after ground rules have been set.
Helpful for: Learning about each participant, exposing topics and questions of interest to the group, uncovering formerly unknown useful expertise for the group to share.
Resources needed: Question cards and pens, circle of chairs. Do not replace cards with the three questions posted on a wall or screen.

Technique: Fishbowl *
Brief description: An effective technique for focused discussion. Works by limiting and making clear who can speak at any moment.
When to use: During any conference content or topic oriented session. Can also be used for conference closing discussion.
Helpful for: Keeping group discussions focused. A plus is that contributors need to move to and from discussion chairs, maintaining alertness and engagement.
Resources needed: Chairs, either set in two concentric circles or in a U-shape with discussant chairs at the mouth.

Technique: Personal introspective *
Brief description: A session where attendees privately reflect on their answers to five questions. All attendees then have an opportunity but not an obligation to share their answers with the group.
When to use: Towards the end of the event, usually just before the final group session for a short event. At multi-day events, sometimes held as the first session on the last day.
Helpful for: Reinforcing learning and concretizing changes participants may wish to make in their lives as a consequence of their experiences during the event.
Resources needed: Chairs, either set in small circles or one large circle, personal introspective question cards and pens.

Technique: Affinity grouping †*
Brief description: A technique to discover and share ideas that arise during the conference and group them into categories, so they can be organized and then discussed.
When to use: Can be used at any session to elicit and gain group responses to ideas. Also useful as a closing process if action outcomes are desired.
Helpful for: Future planning, and uncovering group or sub-group energy around topics and actions. Can be used to guide decision-making by the group.
Resources needed: Cards and/or large sticky notes, pens, pins or tape if cards used, walls for posting.

Technique: Plus/delta *
Brief description: A simple review tool that allows participants to quickly identify what went well and what could be improved.
When to use: Normally during a closing session.
Helpful for: Quickly uncovering, with a minimum of judgment, positive comments on and possible improvements to a conference or other experience.
Resources needed: Flipcharts and, optionally, ropes or straps.

Notes
How to improve your conference with explicit ground rules and Two principles for designing conference ground rules.

† An expanded description of affinity grouping is available in The Workshop Book: From Individual Creativity to Group Action.

* A complete description of this process can be found in Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love, available from this website, Amazon, or any bookstore.

Other resources
The Knowledge Sharing Toolkit is a useful list of participative processes that can be used with groups.

Photo attribution: Flickr user choconancy