Conferences That Work https://www.conferencesthatwork.com Unconferences, peer conferences, participant-driven events, and facilitation Wed, 23 Jan 2019 21:43:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 Improve meetings by de-emphasizing old-school statushttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2019/01/improve-meetings-deemphasizing-old-school-status/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2019/01/improve-meetings-deemphasizing-old-school-status/#respond Mon, 21 Jan 2019 11:36:33 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=13467 You can improve meetings by de-emphasizing status. Apart from my first book, I haven’t written much about status at events. It’s time to revisit this important topic. I think about status at events as the relative levels of proclaimed or perceived […]

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Improve meetings by de-emphasizing old-school statusYou can improve meetings by de-emphasizing status.

Apart from my first book, I haven’t written much about status at events. It’s time to revisit this important topic.

I think about status at events as the relative levels of proclaimed or perceived social value assigned to or assumed by attendees.

There are two key kinds of event status — let’s call them old-school and real-time.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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Handling a meeting question that isn’thttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2019/01/handling-questions/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2019/01/handling-questions/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2019 11:23:35 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=13442 We’ve all experienced the meeting question that isn’t. A session presenter or moderator asks for questions and someone stands up and starts spouting their own opinions. A concluding question (if they even have one) is little more than an excuse […]

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Dealing with questions that aren'tWe’ve all experienced the meeting question that isn’t. A session presenter or moderator asks for questions and someone stands up and starts spouting their own opinions. A concluding question (if they even have one) is little more than an excuse for their own speech.

Are you tired of attendees making statements during question time? Here are ways to deal with audience questions that aren’t actually questions.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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AlphaZero, machine learning, and the future of workhttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/technology/2019/01/alphazero-learning-future-work/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/technology/2019/01/alphazero-learning-future-work/#respond Mon, 07 Jan 2019 11:16:15 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=13298 Not long ago I wrote about the end of decent paid jobs and the need for basic income. A startling recent advance in machine learning has only heightened my concerns. Last month, Google’s subsidiary, DeepMind, published a paper on AlphaZero, an artificial […]

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AlphaZero, machine learning, and the future of work

Not long ago I wrote about the end of decent paid jobs and the need for basic income. A startling recent advance in machine learning has only heightened my concerns. Last month, Google’s subsidiary, DeepMind, published a paper on AlphaZero, an artificial intelligence (AI) the company designed to play games. The AI started with only game rules. Here’s what happened next:

“At first it made random moves. Then it started learning through self-play. Over the course of nine hours, the chess version of the program played forty-four million games against itself on a massive cluster of specialized Google hardware. After two hours, it began performing better than human players; after four, it was beating the best chess engine in the world.”
—James Somers, New Yorker, How the Artificial-Intelligence Program AlphaZero Mastered Its Games

From “knowing” nothing about the game, in four hours the program became the strongest chess player in the world. AlphaZero also taught itself in a few hours to become the world’s best Go and shogi player.

As a schoolboy I played competitive chess for a few years. Although I haven’t played chess seriously since then, I still have a feeling for the game.

I was shocked watching AlphaZero’s tenth game with Stockfish, the strongest open-source chess engine in the world.

I’d describe AlphaZero’s play as completely solid, interspersed with incredible flashes of brilliance. Great human chess players have an uncanny ability to view a position and quickly select a few plausible moves for deeper study out of the many possible legal moves. The best grandmasters occasionally discover a brilliant and unexpected move in a game. AlphaZero found several during this game.

Having seen this game, I’d describe AlphaZero as the most creative, brilliant, and strongest chess player the world has ever seen.

From a novice to best in the world in four hours, is a level of performance that no human can match.

Now think about what would happen if this kind of performance could be achieved in human work environments such as:

  • medical scan diagnosis;
  • legal document creation;
  • engineering design; and
  • stock market trading.

These are only harder problems than playing a game because:

  • the problem space is larger; and
  • the data needed for learning can’t be self-generated by the AI itself and must be supplied by humans.

But these are not insuperable obstacles. If overcome, many high paid jobs for medical practitioners, lawyers, accountants, and financial analysts would disappear.

Are we moving towards a world where the only available work is in low paid “human service” areas where people are still cheaper than machines? Perhaps.

Until the arrival of robots capable of doing just about everything humans do. What work for humans remains then?

Image attribution: Wired

Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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Event Design is how it workshttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/12/event-design-works/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/12/event-design-works/#respond Mon, 31 Dec 2018 11:59:11 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=13243 “Design is how it works” is the favorite thing Apple software engineer Ken Kocienda heard Steve Jobs say. Here’s Steve: “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it [a product] looks like. People think it’s this veneer—that the designers […]

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Design is how it works“Design is how it works” is the favorite thing Apple software engineer Ken Kocienda heard Steve Jobs say.

Here’s Steve:

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it [a product] looks like. People think it’s this veneer—that the designers are headed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
—Steve Jobs, The Guts of a New Machine, 2003 New York Times interview

If only we applied Steve’s insight to event design.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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Five Reasons to Change Conferenceshttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/12/five-reasons-change-conferences/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/12/five-reasons-change-conferences/#respond Mon, 24 Dec 2018 11:10:04 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=13218 Here’s my article “Five Reasons to Change Conferences“, published in the December 2018, NSA Speaker magazine. OUTSIDE IN Five Reasons to Change Conferences Peer sessions provide greater connection around content The most important reason people go to conferences is to usefully connect with […]

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Here’s my article Five Reasons to Change Conferences, published in the December 2018, NSA Speaker magazine.Five Reasons to Change Conferences

OUTSIDE IN

Five Reasons to Change Conferences

Peer sessions provide greater connection around content

The most important reason 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. During lectures there’s no connection between audience members and no connection around lecture content. Here are five reasons why.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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Many “experiential” events are just razzle-dazzlehttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/12/experiential-events-razzle-dazzle/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/12/experiential-events-razzle-dazzle/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 11:06:37 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=13096 Beware of “experiential” events that are just razzle-dazzle. “Experiential” has become a buzzword to use to describe hip events. Instead of listening to speakers, you’re going to have — wait for it — experiences! Sounds so much better, doesn’t it? The […]

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Experiential events that aren'tBeware of “experiential” events that are just razzle-dazzle.

“Experiential” has become a buzzword to use to describe hip events. Instead of listening to speakers, you’re going to have — wait for it — experiences! Sounds so much better, doesn’t it?

The problem is that most events touted as experiential simply add irrelevant novelty to a familiar event process.

For example, the much-hyped C2 Montréal.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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We are biased against truly creative event designhttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/12/biased-against-creative-event-designs/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/12/biased-against-creative-event-designs/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 11:11:28 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=12969 We are biased against creativity. Though most people say they admire creativity, research indicates we actually prefer inside-the-box thinking. “In an article for Slate, Jessica Olien debunks the myth that originality and inventiveness are valued in US society: “This is the […]

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We are biased against truly creative event designWe are biased against creativity. Though most people say they admire creativity, research indicates we actually prefer inside-the-box thinking.

“In an article for Slate, Jessica Olien debunks the myth that originality and inventiveness are valued in US society: “This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it.” She cites academic studies indicating that people are biased against creative minds. They crave the success of the result, but shun the process that produces it.”
—Sarah Kendzior, The View From Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America

The meeting industry is no exception. We define creativity as a subset of what is actually possible.  A “creative” event design is one with a novel venue and/or decor and lighting and/or food and beverage. Consequently, planners restrict the entire focus of creative event design to novel visual and sensory elements. The meeting industry has redefined novelty as creativity.

Truly creative event design
We are biased against truly creative event design. Watering down creativity biases stakeholders against the value and promise of truly creative event design, which:

  • Starts with the key questions “who’s it for?” and “what’s it for?”
  • Moves to “what should happen?“; and finally
  • Takes a hard look at the process changes needed to develop a more effective event.

Truly creative event design questions, for example, whether we need to have a keynote speaker, relegate significant participant discussions to breaks and socials, or supply entertainment during meals.

I’ve experienced plenty of bias against comprehensive event design since I began developing participant-driven and participation-rich meetings in 1992. Despite over 25 years’ evidence that such designs improve meetings for all stakeholders, most traditional event owners shy away from exploring change that is creatively significant. Even potential clients who are experiencing some combination of falling attendance, evaluations, or profits have a hard time facing changing what happens at their events.

Can we overcome bias against truly creative event design?
Though millions of meetings take place every year, thousands of meeting organizers know how to create truly creative conference designs. The steady rise in popularity of participant-driven and participation-rich designs like Conferences That Work continues.

We can do better than novelty at our meetings. The first step is to acknowledge our bias against creativity, and how we distract stakeholders with novelty instead. The second is to incorporate truly creative design into our events and experience the resulting benefits.

Image attribution Rob Donnelly

Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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Learning in community at conferenceshttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/learning/2018/12/learning-better-community-conferences/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/learning/2018/12/learning-better-community-conferences/#respond Mon, 03 Dec 2018 11:26:44 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=12971 Legendary Apple designer Jony Ive explains how learning in community helped Apple make the iPhone: “When we genuinely look at a problem it’s an opportunity to learn together, and we discover something together. We know that learning in community is […]

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Legendary Apple designer Jony Ive explains how learning in community helped Apple make the iPhone:

“When we genuinely look at a problem it’s an opportunity to learn together, and we discover something together. We know that learning in community is powerful. It feeds and supports momentum which in turn encourages a familiarity and an acceptance of challenges associated with doing difficult things. And I’ve come to learn that I think a desire to learn makes doing something new just a little less scary.”
——Jony Ive, Apple designer Jony Ive explains how ‘teetering towards the absurd’ helped him make the iPhone

At conferences we also learn better when we learn in community. At traditional events, expert speakers broadcast content at attendees. But today our minds are increasingly outside our brains. Our ability to learn effectively now depends mostly on the quality and connectedness of our networks, rather than what’s inside our heads.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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Today’s schoolrooms can teach adults the power of positive sharinghttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/learning/2018/11/kids-teach-adults-effective-sharing/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/learning/2018/11/kids-teach-adults-effective-sharing/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 11:28:00 +0000 http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=10049 For years I’ve been reading to 3rd & 4th grade students at the Marlboro Elementary School, my amazing local public school. It’s a tiny school that currently serves around 100 pre-kindergarten – 8th grade children (4 – 13 years old). I read […]

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For years I’ve been reading to 3rd & 4th grade students at the Marlboro Elementary School, my amazing local public school. It’s a tiny school that currently serves around 100 pre-kindergarten – 8th grade children (4 – 13 years old).

I read during noon recess, after outdoor play. A student rings the bell and children stream back into their classrooms. But before they get their lunch and listen to me, they sit on the floor in a circle and share answers to a simple question:

What went well during recess?

As I listen, it’s clear that kids feel comfortable talking about how they worked together. They build forts, play games, and do all the things kids have done for years when they play in the wooded grounds of our rural school. They don’t talk in generalities. Rather, they name specific classmates and thank them for collaboration, support, and the fun they created together.

The power of public appreciations
These simple public appreciations create a palpable social awareness in the group. You can see relationships strengthen as one child acknowledges another. The children’s interactions are shaped by largely invisible norms of behavior that the teacher expertly introduces during the first few weeks of school.

It’s not all sweetness and light. Inevitably some conflicts come up too. So the teacher sometimes lets the kids delve into what happened, and sometimes reserves discussion for a private chat later in the day.

What strikes me is how easy this is to do and how powerful the results. Group sharing like this was absent during my school years. Instead, our teachers encouraged us to compete with each other academically. They never asked us to talk about positive things our classmates had done.

Appreciative Inquiry
Surprisingly, asking what is currently being done well is the first crucial step of Appreciative Inquiry(AI): a powerful process for exploring productive organizational change. AI starts with a focus on what works in an organization, not what needs fixing. Stories also play an important role.

Want to learn more about AI? For a quick introduction, I recommend The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. Or go here for a comprehensive set of resources and tools.

Who would have thought it? Today’s schoolrooms can teach adults the power of positive sharing! Have you used Appreciative Inquiry at your organization? Share your experience below.

Image attribution: Amy Kolb Noyes

 

Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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The top educational meeting formathttps://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/11/top-educational-format-participatory-sessions/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2018/11/top-educational-format-participatory-sessions/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 11:34:35 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=12838 The educational format that 80% of meeting professionals prefer is a facilitated, workshop-style, participatory session. Do you incorporate participatory sessions into your events?

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incorporate participatory sessions into your events
What’s an Ideal Meeting? April 2018, Meetings and Conventions Magazine

Do you incorporate participatory sessions into your events?

80% of meeting professionals prefer facilitated workshop-style, participatory sessions [survey by M&C Research, April 2018 Meeting and Conventions magazine]!

That’s way ahead of their second choice: Professional speakers delivering presentations (58%).

I’ve been designing and facilitating workshop-style, participatory sessions since 1992, and participants love them!

Smart conference producers incorporate participatory sessions into their events.

Do you?

Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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