Conferences for ENGAGEMENT…rather than display

Posted by Steve Waddell in Net Dev on October 7, 2017

“Conferences can lead to both knowledge exchange and impact – we just have to do them differently,” writes Mark Reed. Amen to that. I, too, don’t want to go to conferences designed around cutting off the top of heads and stuffing them with new knowledge and someone else’s wisdom. Why are they still organized so often as though the internet never happened, and information sharing is a major function for them? And for people who think they’re important to come on stage, tell us something, and then leave? Conferences should be about collective sharing and creating.

A recent — and for me very rewarding — International Transdisciplinary conference gave a remarkable comparison of two different methods of sharing that make a point about what’s dynamic in a conference. In some plenaries they had people slouching in big comfy chairs imparting wisdom extemporaneously with the audience participation amounting to a microphone passing very occasionally. Verrrrrry low energy and engagement. In another session, people at the from were standing, each in front of their own four-foot small round cocktail table. Much more high energy. The session organizer did considerable work with the four speakers in advance to prepare nuggets, with a half dozen specific questions that they had to speak to in two minutes. The right hand side of the massive video screen showing the participants had VERY brief answers each had prepared in advance…so what they said on stage was a short extension of a major point captured there. People in the audience then spoke to the points.

Mark Reed lists more learnings about how to organize engaging, generative conferences from the marvelous Transformations2017 conference I attended with Ioan Fazey as maestro. Read Mark’s blog here!. It integrated arts and sciences; mind, body and heart. The photo shows a collective event experiencing creation and destruction…transformation!

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