Read more about:
- Learn & Connect conferences
- Ideas & Insights conferences
- Engage & Co-create conferences
- Tell–Sell–Test–Consult–Co-create model
Learn & Connect conferences
The purpose of this kind of conference is enabling people to gain knowledge, exchange views, begin new relationships and strengthen existing ones.
Learn & Connect conferences are mostly convened by:
- Publishers of specialist and professional magazines
- Academic and research institutions
- Professional associations
- Trade associations
- Political parties
- Affinity groups
- Communities of practice
Traditional Learn & Connect conferences feature a series of PowerPoint presentations given by a ‘sage on the stage’, along with Q&A sessions and panel discussions, and they have ‘delegates’ (a.k.a. ‘the audience’) seated theatre-style.
Generally, when someone says “I’m going to a conference”, this is the kind of conference they are referring to.
The challenge for conference sponsors and organisers: To create the conditions for maximum learning and connecting.
Ideas & Insights conferences
The purpose of this type of conference is eliciting ideas and insights from employees, customers, community members, suppliers and other stakeholders.
The conference organisers seek to understand participants’ thoughts, feelings and perspectives in relation to a particular topic, issue or challenge.
Examples of Ideas & Insights conferences: stakeholder awareness events and customer insight events.
The challenge for sponsors of Ideas & Insights conferences: to discover more effective ways of eliciting ideas and insights.
Engage & Co-create conferences
This kind of conference enables people (employees, members, citizens etc.) to work together to create the future of their organisation, professional association or community.
An Engage & Co-create conference provides a context in which your organisation’s leaders, staff and (when appropriate) external stakeholders can:
- Engage with the organisation’s brand, story, vision and strategy.
- Initiate collaborative projects that put the strategy into action.
- Redesign the structure of the organisation.
- Find ways to:
– Eliminate a silo mentality.
– Transform corporate culture.
– Become more agile and innovative.
– Improve business processes and work practices.
– Integrate two businesses following a merger or acquisition.
The challenge for conference sponsors: To become aware of the limitations of the engagement paradigm, and to make the leap from engagement to co-creation.
Read my article: Stop trying to engage people. It can’t be done.
Read my article: Co-creation
The three broad approaches
A. Participant determined content and outcomes
Conferences (sometimes known as unconferences) based on this approach are very loosely orchestrated.
The sponsor determines the overarching theme (which is often framed as a question), the number of waves of concurrent participant-led sessions, and their start and end times.
Within that minimal structure, the participants are left to their own devices. They decide which sessions they want to join, and what they want to discuss.
Main methodologies used: Open Space Technology, BarCamp and Peer Conferences.
B. Sponsor determined content and outcomes
Conferences based on this approach are tightly orchestrated. The conference sponsors decide exactly what will be discussed, by whom and in what manner.
Participants are led through a series of activities that have been carefully designed to achieve a set of specific outcomes or outputs.
The outputs from Engage & Co-create conferences become inputs into a larger programme of strategic organisational work.
Main methodologies used: none (most common), Real Time Strategic Change and Whole-Scale™.
A combination of A and B. The strengths of each approach compensate for the weaknesses of the other.
This type of conference is not that common, although I have been involved in several. In each case, the methodology incorporated the best aspects of Open Space Technology and Real Time Strategic Change.
- Traditional conferences have had their day—Part 1
- Traditional conferences have had their day—Part 2
- Using Open Space Technology for Consumer Insight Discovery and Stakeholder Consultation
- Towards more effective Open Space Technology and Real Time Strategic Change conferences
- Some recommended venues in the UK