Design your conference based on logistics and learning
Every event has a thousand details which need to be planned carefully to ensure everything comes together at the same time to benefit everyone. The irony of this investment in planning time is that much less is invested in designing the content. I have often asked, ‘What are the learning objectives for this conference?’ The answer is most often: ‘Our theme for this event is …’
A theme is not a learning objective.
The solution is to create two planning processes (and most likely groups or committees) to create two types of strategies for an event.
- A logistical strategy – this includes all of the details to host the event. This most looks like the normal organization plan for a conference. There are many books to help you gain new insights for planning the event.
- A learning strategy – this defines why this event is being held, what learning, engagement and collaboration results are crucial for participants, and how they will be achieved. This is much more than picking speakers.
To define and act on these takes a different style of thinking.
- Logistical planners must be detailed oriented, analytical problem solvers.
- Learning specialists must use foresight to ask questions like, ‘What’s possible here?’
They must be prepared to look at new ideas that have not been tried before. When great logistical plans are combined with great learning plans, something powerful happens.
Questions for conference designers
- If you review the time invested in previous conference, how much time was invested in planning and designing the content in comparison to planning the details crucial for making the event happen?
- Does the event have learning objectives for the participants?
Insight from the book
Meeting Professionals International research found:
‘Meetings should be planned around clearly identified problems or issues with specific desired outcomes. These outcomes should dictate the form and process of meetings. Meetings should be viewed as learning experiences designed to change the behavior of attendees.’
Preview of updated book
The revised book will include a third element of a conference: collaboration. A new section will expand our thinking of what can be achieved when people come together at an event. It will be recommended that some element of the design include a time for collaboration. The objective is for participants to create ideas and opportunities which open the door for more results after the event. Four conference design themes will be explored.
- Design for greater individual success
- Design for greater team collaboration
- Design for identifying new opportunities
- Design to solve a business or association challenge