Four unquestioned assumptions lurk behind the traditional conference format—assumptions so deep-seated that they go unquestioned by most conference organizers. These assumptions embody, and consequently help perpetuate, a distorted and outdated way of thinking about conference purpose and structure, leading to a conference model that, according to a majority of the people I interviewed for Conferences That Work, does not well serve conference attendees.
Here are the assumptions:
- Conference session topics must be chosen and scheduled in advance.
- Conference sessions should be used primarily for transmitting pre-planned content.
- Supporting meaningful connections with other attendees is not the conference organizers’ job; it’s something that happens in the breaks between sessions.
- Conferences are best ended with some event that will hopefully convince attendees to stay to the end.
Over the next few weeks I’ll examine these assumptions individually and explain why they lead to conferences that don’t work as well as they could.
Image attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/un-sharp/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0