Improving Conferences

Chris Corrigan has posted some interesting ideas about improving conferences partly prompted by my recent comments on this subject.

I like his description of keynote facilitation:

The keynote facilitator combines the attention and energy of a keynote address with the process care of a facilitator. Instead of giving you great ideas from MY head and experience, as a keynote facilitator I help to set the context for your own learning and guide process that invites you to turn to those in the room and begin to craft innovation together in collaborative conversation. I have been using World Cafe as a process for doing this recently at a national conference on Aboriginal forestry and a regional gathering on Aboriginal economic development and I believe that it does provide added value for participants who are able to get quickly deeply into the issues and questions they face. The process also helps to develop an emergent sense of what the conference as a whole is thinking about and it provides individuals with an opportunity to reflect on their reasons for attending and to become more intentional about that. With the hour or so assigned to traditional plenary keynote speakers, I can have a conference of people talking to one another, creating connections and seeking out partners.

This is something I can get excited about – and quite a radical shift from the prevailing model for conferences. As a facilitator, I am quite passionate about getting peole enaged with each other and impatient with processes that marginalise the importance of real connections. Chris is planning to host some Skype calls around this topic and I’m looking forward to taking part.

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