Here are some consequences of concentrating on top-down (traditional) rather than bottom-up (non-traditional) conference process:
- Everyone gets assigned their role in advance.
- Top-down implies that some people have “the knowledge”; the rest don’t.
- There’s less opportunity to engage attendees who aren’t invested; they can zone out as they choose.
- Passive reception of knowledge is the dominant learning modality.
- There may be less stress for attendees, knowing that no personal contribution is expected.
- There are, at best, few expectations for attendees, apart from paying for the conference.
- Tradition coupled to prestige confirms legitimacy—”this is the way it’s done”.
- The conference confers status by association; you’re a professional in this field, because professionals in this field go to this conference.
- Top-down imposes control of what’s going to happen: who speaks, who listens, who’s in, who’s out.
- Conference structure and content are fixed; they’re very difficult to change even if circumstances cry out for a different direction.
- The top-down model can put pressure on presenters, who may feel they need to be comprehensive, all-knowing, and coherent to justify the program committee’s choice of them as presenters.
- The power to create conference structure and session topics is confined to the conference program committee.
- Top-down supports and perpetuates cliques: the presenters versus audience, the old hands and the in-crowd versus the newbies.
- Everyone knows what is supposed to happen, minimizing fear of the unknown.
- The conference tends to mirror and/or reinforce perceived hierarchy or status in a profession or field—“here are the experts”.
- Meeting and connecting with like-minded people during the formal conference program is largely a matter of chance or careful preparation.
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