I know I tend to rush to check out the latest gadget, site, social media platform—Google+, anyone?—and conference format. But it's one thing to check something out, and quite another to use it indiscriminately without first understanding how it works. As the brilliant Jeffrey Cufaude points out in this post, you can do more harm than good if you rush to incorporate the latest fad, in this case, conference format, without 1) ensuring that the shiny new format will do more to enhance your goals and objectives than something that may be less flashy but more effective; and 2) making sure you're doing it correctly.
While I've seen this more with social media than with conference formats (you know, the "we must have a Facebook page, even if we never do anything with it" syndrome), but I have suffered through a few ill-advised sessions that actually turn people off to the format because it was done so badly and/or did not advance the learning. In one case, the format actually got in the way of the learning.
And it can be costly: I have heard of more than one association that got so burned by the expense of going all-out making their meetings hybrid last year that they decided not to include any live remote-learning aspects at all this year. Not taking the time to figure out exactly what they needed to further their goals ended up causing them to chuck the whole enchilada when maybe just omitting the onions and going lighter on the hot sauce would have made a delicious addition to their meetings.
I'm as guilty of this as anyone, wanting to dive into everything new and then not taking the time to learn how to use it effectively (again, Google+, anyone?), but let's all try to remember, as Jeffrey says,
"Our mantra as planners or presenters needs to be: It's about the learning.
"As minimum we must consider if the format is appropriate for the participants, the content, and the overall learning experience we are designing. We also need to examine if our intended use reflects the format's true methodology and principles, or if what we are planning is really 'in name only.'"
The tendency seems to be either to be an early adopter who likes to rush in and try the new thing no matter what, or to sit back and wait until the new thing has been so thoroughly vetted that it's lost its novelty fun factor. I think we need to not be afraid to try something new, but, as Joan Eisenstodt says in a comment on Jeffrey's post, "Meetings still need objectives and goals and formats need to be thought through for the audience and content."
And look at all the formats there are to think through! Peter Straube has thoughtfully pulled some of the coolest into this handy list. They may not all be shiny and new, but I'd be willing to bet they're all too new to your attendees. Just please, use them wisely.