Destroy the conference to save it. When mistaken beliefs about methods and outcomes harden into dogma, harm follows. The professional meeting industry largely believes that:
- Bigger meetings are better meetings (not questioning “better” than what?)
- We should find a few experts and have them talk (not realizing the smartest person in the room is the room.)
- Lecturing should be the predominant activity during sessions (not accepting that listening to lectures is a tragic waste of meeting time.)
- Attendees should connect during meals and socials (not understanding that connecting around relevant content in sessions is far more useful and effective.)
- Program committees know what attendees want to learn (not knowing that they don’t.)
We don’t have to make the same mistakes we made in Vietnam. We know how to design conferences that maximize just-in-time active learning, productive engagement, relevant connection, and successful outcomes.
But if we continue to try to save conferences by keeping them the way they’ve always been, we’ll continue to destroy them.