Nine conference mythodologies

Nine conference mythodologies Long ago, consultant Tom Gilb coined the term “mythodology” to describe erroneous but commonly held beliefs about how something should be done. Here are nine mythodologies about conferences.

Mythodology: We know what our attendees want to learn about

Reality: No, you don’t. At least half the sessions programmed at traditional conferences are not what attendees want.

Mythodology: Event socials are a good way to meet people

Reality: People tend to stay with people they already know at event socials. Participant-driven and participation-rich events provide far more opportunities to meet people you actually want to meet.

Mythodology: A “conference curator” can improve the quality of your conference content

Reality: Sadly, conference curators don’t exist. But discovering the content wants and needs of participants at the event and satisfying them with the collective resources in the room is routinely possible and significantly improves the quality of your conference content.

Mythodology: Learning occurs through events

Reality: Learning is a continual process; formal events only contribute a small percentage to the whole.

Mythodology: Conference programs should be stuffed full of sessions so there’s something of interest for everyone

Reality: Downtime is essential for effective learning and connection, so providing conference white space is essential. (Trick: Stuff your program if you must, but give attendees explicit permission to take their own downtime when they need it.)

Mythodology: Adding novelty to a meeting makes it better

Reality: Novelty is a one-time trick. Next time it’s old. But making your meeting better lasts. Go for better, not just different.

Mythodology: Big conferences are better conferences

Reality: Better for the owners perhaps (if the meeting is making a profit) but not better for participants. Today’s most successful conferences are micro conferences. (And, by the way, most conferences are small conferences.)

Mythodology: We know what attendees like, don’t like, and value about our meeting

Reality: If you’re using smile sheets or online surveys, you’re learning nothing about the long-term value of your meeting. This is the meeting industry’s biggest dirty secret. Use long-term evaluation techniques [1] [2] instead.

Mythodology: We can contract a venue for our meeting before we design it

Reality: Sounds silly when put like that, but it happens all the time. Designing your meeting and then choosing a venue that can showcase your design will improve your meeting experience (and can save you big bucks!)

I bet you can think of more mythodologies. Share them in the comments!

Image attribution: Flickr user dunechaser

The myth of the conference curator—part 2

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A year ago I wrote about the myth of the conference curator, starting with the observation that highly paid sports scouts do barely better than chance at picking great players. Last week, Seth Godin wrote this:

“We have no idea in advance who the great contributors are going to be. We know that there’s a huge cohort of people struggling outside the boundaries of the curated, selected few, but we don’t know who they are. That means that the old systems, the ones where just a few people were anointed to be the chosen authors, chosen contributors, chosen musicians–that system left a lot of people out in the cold…The curated business, then, will ultimately fail because it keeps missing this shoulder, this untapped group of talented, eager, hard-working people shut out by their deliberately closed ecosystem…Go ahead and minimize these open systems at your own peril. Point to their negative outliers, inconsistency and errors, sure, but you can only do that if you willfully ignore the real power: some people, some of the time, are going to do amazing and generous work… If we’ll just give them access to tools and get out of their way.
Most people, most of the time (the perfect crowd fallacy) by Seth Godin

Appropriate participation techniques are the tools for participants to do amazing and generous work—for others and for themselves—at conferences. Give them permission, access, and support for these tools and get conference curators out of their way.

Process facilitators—yes. Conference curators—no.

Photo attribution: Flickr user elgris