Conferences that Work
For designing, convening, and facilitating participatory conferences that work, and showing others how to do it too.
I’ve spent 25 years working on changing outmoded mindsets about what we should be doing in meetings. Historically, topics had to be determined in advance, the meeting format was mainly lecture and did not encourage interaction, and content was king. To stay effective and relevant today, meetings must:
* Respond to what participants actually want and need to learn
* Adapt to the reality that we primarily learn from our peers rather than experts
* Provide appropriate opportunities to connect with relevant peers in the sessions around content
And it is changing. The meetings industry is far more aware of the importance of treating and supporting attendees as active participants rather than passive consumers of education. You see this in the increasing number of industry articles about good meeting process, the rise of the term “meeting design” being applied to the group process we use in sessions as opposed to, say, F&B or production design.
I don’t take full credit, of course, for these changes, but I feel proud to have been an instigator and passionate promoter of them through speaking, and authoring Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love and The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action. I also moderated the #eventprofs Twitter chats for several years, and until recently, ran the weekly #Eventprofs Happy Hour Hangout for meeting professionals.
I am now writing another book with the working title of “The Little Book of Event Crowdsourcing,” and I’m starting to offer workshops where meeting professionals, designers, and stakeholders can learn first-hand about the power of the participatory techniques I’ve written about and use. And I continue to design and facilitate meetings, which is perhaps the most effective way to change mindsets: exposing participants to what meetings can be like when you adopt a participant-driven and participation-rich approach.
Best Business Advice
One of my mentors, Jeannie Courtney, taught me to trust my intuition and helped me see the power and joy that is possible when I respond to opportunity rather than what I used to think of as taking a risk by trying something new—and scary. Like much of my most important learning, that change of perspective happened experientially, rather than from a piece of advice.
Got a Spare Hour?
I would do yoga and meditation if I haven’t yet fit them into my day. I like to read a wide variety of nonfiction, mysteries, and science fiction. And I am active in my local nonprofit communities—I’ve been running or on the board of multiple associations continuously for over 30 years.
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