Here’s an annotated video of our 20-minute conversation:
00:00 How the thousand-year history of conferences affects the way we meet today. 02:20 Lectures are terrible ways to learn. 03:00 The forgetting curve and how it reduces the learning at traditional conferences. 04:15 Why I created my first participant-driven and participation-rich meeting in 1992. 06:20 The conference arc. 07:45 Uncovering participants’ wants and needs via crowdsourcing.
For an excellent summary of the work I do, check out this interview and podcast, Creating Conferences That Work by Celisa Steele of Leading Learning. The podcast recording is nicely summarized in the show notes, so you can just read about what interests you, and then listen to any or all of the interview sections from the links on the page.
What led to writing the book, Conferences that Work?
I invented the format by accident 26 years ago when there were no expert speakers to invite for a conference on administrative computing issues in small schools. We needed a format that would allow a room of strangers to learn about each other and the issues we were interested in by using the expertise in the room.
I asked people, “If this conference could be amazing for you, what would it be about?” Then I built a program around those topics, with people in the room leading impromptu sessions. Often, the results are unexpected. The sessions are not polished; there is no PowerPoint. Often it is more like a discussion than a presentation, but that is why it is effective. My research shows that asking in advance doesn’t work. At traditional conferences with fixed programs set in advance, at best half of sessions offered are what attendees want.
That participant-driven conference is still going as a four-day program, with sessions generated over the first half-day.
I discovered that people love the format, and that led to writing the book 10 years ago. I was an amateur in the meeting industry, and that led to some mistakes, but it also gave me a fresh perspective at a time when meeting design wasn’t really a “thing.”
Simon Waddell‘s ten minute video interview of me at EIBTM 2012. How Conferences That Work were developed, why they are growing in popularity, and the problem of getting meeting owners to buy into participant-driven events.