Hack your conference

"People who do not break things first will never learn to create anything." -Filipino Proverb via +Paul Andersen Imagine attending a conference with the same audience you are planning your conference for. Now, imagine a session on the agenda where they're going to hack your conference. They are not conference planners, they are the people for whom you plan your conference. When this happened to me at SXSWedu, I was thrilled! I help design a massive professional development experience for educators from all over the world and I was in a room with educators talking about how they would plan the perfect conference.
Harvard Business Review

You may be thinking, "I plan a conference for doctors or dog trainers. What does this have to do with me?" Well, educators have a lot to teach us about how to deliver professional development. They are delivering education every day and are challenged with concepts like personalizing learning, using students' mobile devices, and flipping their classrooms, to name a few. The brave ones are trying to disrupt the entire model to find a better way. I am most inspired by the ones who talk about unlearning.

Are you spending enough time unlearning? Probably not. Most of us don't even know how to do it! Have you ever been annoyed to hear about someone with no conference planning experience pull off a large, high profile, or otherwise complicated event? Did you consider that it might have been because they hadn't learned the way you're supposed to do it, they did it in a way that was much more useful for attendees? Mind you, I've been to plenty of events that were disappointing and I could tell there wasn't a professional involved. However, I've also been to plenty of events where professionals were involved and I was more disappointed that they didn't take more risks to create more value.

Back to the SXSWedu session: HackPDXXL. The educators who ran this session are clearly the best of the best when it comes to today's teaching methods. It was so well facilitated, we accomplished an amazing amount of work in two hours. This was the goal:
Teacher professional development has come a long way - we've incorporated social media, started grassroots un-conferences and found success in responsive, intimate workshops. But nothing can replace the large-scale, international conference as a venue for connection and inspiration. Yet these massive conferences present a critical unsolved problem of how to provide deep and complex learning opportunities of the type that we strive to offer our students. What constraints and assumptions can we challenge about what a conference looks, feels and sounds like? How might we disrupt the massive conference model, keeping the scale and broad connection while deepening participant learning?
Has your audience been connecting with each other online without your assistance? Have some of them created their own events without you? If you want to dive deep into what was created during this session, you can view the Google site. If you consume it without your professional conference organizer lenses, you may start to make connections to what your attendees really want and need. This would be like asking your attendees the questions you should really be asking them instead of asking them questions you already know the answers to. Let me know what connections you make!


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