Participatory Conferences

David Gurteen has written an excellent series of suggestions on “participatory conferences”:

“ Too often, talks are packed in back to back, often in multi-streams with little or no time for questions and answers and genuine discussion - never mind - networking among the participants. Speakers are not sufficiently briefed or disciplined and run over time; insufficient time is allowed for coffee breaks and for lunch and no time is built in to the day for conversation and reflection. What’s worse is that these conferences are about ‘learning and knowledge management’ - the organizers are just not walking the talk! So this page is one that is continually under development and captures and disseminates some ideas and tools for making conferences more interactive, participatory and engaging and thus better learning environments.”

For David’s list of really good, practical suggestions, see here. Anyone who’s attended his knowledge cafes will know how much he knows what he’s talking about.

David’s post has also been picked up by David Wilcox, who reports on a conference organiser who “can personally appreciate that it is often in doing it yourself that you actually learn” but claims that delegates just want to sit and hear about how KM is done. Right. But they’re obviously not really interested in KM, right? How could they be?

Maybe we should form two strands of KM conference, “Real KM” conferences, and “Vicarious KM” conferences. The commercial providers can have the second type.

David (Wilcox) then gives a wonderful link to a post of his from September 2004, reporting on a 35 minute “instant communities of practice” activity for a 200 person conference, where delegates used keywords on sticky labels to find four or five people with similar interests, and then made home made flags to gather a community around a set of issues they wanted to pursue as a community, and ideas for next steps. David’s photos illustrate what must have been an incredible buzz (see below). REAL knowledge management and heaps more fun than endless powerpoint!

Any regular reader of this blog knows that I have regular rants about KM conferences, and the actKM community last year had an extremely lively (sometimes heated) discussion about conferences that came up with other extremely useful suggestions for productive and participative events.

It’s great to see that Ark Group Australia have picked up on these suggestions and used them as input for planning their 2007 KM Australia event, although I hope (as David Gurteen suggests) they keep their vendors under control. If we tell our conference providers what we want for long enough, they might just believe us, and do something about it. Long live “Real KM”!

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