Tony Karrer's eLearning Blog on e-Learning Trends eLearning 2.0 Personal Learning Informal Learning eLearning Design Authoring Tools Rapid e-Learning Tools Blended e-Learning e-Learning Tools Learning Management Systems (LMS) e-Learning ROI and Metrics

Monday, March 03, 2008

More on Better Conferences

I just saw a post by Chris - ASTD TechKnowledge 2008 Postmortem. I still need to do my more detailed session review, but I definitely left out a few thoughts in my posts Move to Front?
and First Thoughts After ASTD Sessions.

And really, Chris made me realize that I had left out a few things from some previous posts around Better Conferences and Conference Breakout Sessions.

1. Entertaining Keynote vs. Content Rich Keynote

Chris tells us -
The opening keynote by David Pogue (I’m a big fan!), while not specifically related to eLearning, was energizing and highly entertaining.
I would completely agree. Entertaining and not related to eLearning. I had my laptop out and was ready to blog about it. But I didn't find much to blog about. I've had this experience before and I'm often torn. I like to hear from people who are doing interesting things in related fields. But, pure entertainment doesn't seem appropriate to me. So, I personally would rather hear from a visionary in our field. Actually, I think I could pull together something better with a few visionaries that would still be entertaining in that it would be an Aha rather than a Woohoo.

But that's me, how about you?

2. Last Day Letdown

Chris tells us -
Sadly, the event ended with more whimper than bang, with a classic final-day conference letdown. Why do half of the participants always disappear before the final day of a conference?
This is classic. I always try to avoid presenting on the last day. And I generally leave before the last day. Normally, it's only half a day. And conference organizers know that this happens. Not sure what you can do about this? Is there a better model?

3. Breakout Sessions

Chris tells us -
Both sessions I attended on the final day included extensive (and worthless) breakout group activities.

If presenters plan to include significant group breakout activities in their session, please require that they warn us in the session description. So I can go elsewhere. I hate to sound harsh and unkind, but geez - can’t we move past these trite group activities already?
Whew, I barely dodged this bullet (and Chris attended that session). Thanks to everyone for redirecting me via Conference Breakout Sessions.

4. Waiting for Aha

Chris tells us -
I’m still waiting for the iPhone unveiling at Macworld moment at one of these eLearning conferences. Something that makes me sit up and say “Whoa!” Perhaps that is too much to expect, but I’m clinging to the hope of seeing something truly game-changing one of these days.
No doubt that Chris is more advanced than most who are attending. Therefore, harder to get an Aha. Still, it would be nice if there were more opportunities.

Applause for Chris for an interesting postmortem that helped spark some thoughts. The conference organizers must love this - if they read blogs. :)


Paul said...

Hmm. It's my sense that perhaps the issues you and Chris see with elearning conferences are maybe the same ones experienced by all kinds of conferences. Having been to a couple, I have found it's best to attend in the middle, rather than the beginning or the end. I've noticed this about other types of non-conference events too. If I may make a comparison, big public events that take place over a week's time - say, an auto auction or a big car show (both of which I've been to recently) - have low attendance at the beginning and the end of the event's time window. The best strategy is to arrive in the middle when most of the good stuff is available to see.

Now, elearning conferences certainly are not directly analogous to large public events, but there are aspects that translate on some level. Your reference to the lack of a "Jobsian" unveiling or level of hype at elearning is instructive in that we see from a Macworld conference what we'd like professional gatherings in our field to be like, or at least that we'd like to see some enthusiasm behind something new to drive the industry.

Perhaps the conference paradigm needs to be completely restructured, or at least rethought. Is there anyone in elearning that can draw like a Jobs or a Ballmer? In an industry that is driven by changes in other industries - from technology to education- would not the biggest news items come from those other venues first?

V Yonkers said...

Everyone knows that "kiss-of-death" scheduling (first and last of the day, the ultimate first of the conference, last of the conference, or during the key note speaker) and where you rank within the organization based on that scheduling. The other indication of where you rank is if you are up against the gurus of the field. There is no getting around it. Of course, I wonder how many people go to the little known speaker who might be the one who has the Aha Moment--although they could also be the duds.

One way that first day presentations are better received is by having workshops as preconference "teasers" and having prominent keynote speakers. I wonder if this would also help to keep conference goers around (having post conference workshops)?

Finally, just as having an indication of level of presentation (novice, intermediate, advanced) in the conference schedule, having the format might also help those deciding where they want to go. Is it possible, for example, that the topic might be better as an interactive presentation (such as demonstrating collaborative design) whereas others might be better as a demonstration, discussion forum, or lecture? (I find the "lectures" really dull, but would go to one on a topic that is totally new for me).