Designing Conferences as a Learning Event

Nancy Dixon’s blog about a breakthrough in the way the US Army organises its annual KM conference reminds me of a pet peeve of mine. Given what we know about how people learn, why are some conferences still organised the way they are – with back-to-back-breaking plenaries and powerpoints?

Thankfully, habits are slowly changing. The Rome-based UN agencies are years ahead with their Share Fairs. Last month, the Asia Pacific Division of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) organised a 3-day learning event based entirely on KM principles (see the event’s social reports here). And to a large extent so did the Asia Pacific Business Narrative Conference. KM Asia this year introduced “interactive sessions” on both days of its programme.

My favourite KM conference is the ACT-KM Conference, where in true Aussie style they manage to keep it laidback – and fun. I remember being surprised by how casually delegates ask presenters questions during their presentations, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Here in Singapore, we wait respectfully until a 50-slide presentation is over, and then many of us are too shy and/or exhausted to ask questions.

We also seem to be uninterested in doing social reporting. During the recent KM Asia conference held in Singapore, only one out of the few people who tweeted was a local. We missed out on an opportunity to practise using social media tools in a safe-fail environment, to practise what some of us preach back at our workplace.

We have still some long way to go before conferences become the learning event that they ought to be, but thankfully the chipping at old habits is well underway.

1 Comment so far

Bill Proudfit

The best possible conference is one without any talking heads.  It is not such a difficult way of organizing such an event but it is seldom tried.  A whole day of knowledge cafe with the ‘speaker’ being the topic setter is one very simple way of doing it.  I’ve completely gone off seeing any value in listening to someone ‘explain’ how to do KM.

Posted on December 12, 2010 at 04:57 PM | Comment permalink

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