On Wednesday, Jan. 14, I had the opportunity to interview Elliott Masie for an ASAE Professional Development Virtual Learning Session titled, “Ask the Expert: Accelerating the Spread of Knowledge, Learning and Collaboration.”
Elliott is a provocative, engaging and entertaining futurist, analyst and speaker – focused on the changing world of the workplace, learning and technology. He is also the editor of Learning TRENDS by Elliott Masie, an Internet newsletter read by more than 52,000 business executives worldwide, and a regular columnist in professional publications, including CLO Magazine. Moreover, he is the author of a dozen books, and is the convener of Learning 2015.
Following is an outline of our discussion, a combination of pre-populated and audience-generated questions.
Why do people come to our programs?
- They come for context and community
- It’s a rare opportunity where attendees are in a building with people who understand what they do for a living and can connect with people who have similar problems/issues
How do you like to tee up your conferences to get your attendees excited to be there?
- Do not publish the entire agenda of people, keynotes and topics significantly prior to the conference
- Announce one keynote or theme a month
- Ripple effect
- Get people interested and wanting more
- Get conversations going about each new release
- Use each announcement to post videos, announcements and questions
- Create an environment where attendees can provide input
- Build up to the full agenda about five to six weeks out
- Announce one keynote or theme a month
Before the event are there effective ways to engage the learner?
- Surround the learner with options from which they can choose
- Provide access to as many materials as possible beforehand
- Be careful to ensure that any assessments don’t discourage people
- Don’t do it in a way that takes people back to ninth grade
How much down time should we be scripting to encourage learning? How much of it should we let people use in a way that suits them?
- Encourage participant choice
- To some cohorts, empty space scares them
- Allow people to skip the breakouts to go sit with people and network
- “Meet up team” – put them in the middle of the pre-conference space to create opportunities for meet-ups and connections that aren’t in the agenda
- Those who don’t go to breakouts are using the time in their own way (e.g., mingle, network, do other work)
- Freedom of choice and personalization is key
In thinking about the experienced conference participants, is it about linking them with other experienced conference participants? Is it about finding opportunities for them to mentor new professionals? Or is it something else?
- They want to be near their colleagues, but not necessarily in the classroom
Do you have any must-have evaluation questions?
- Observe behavioral data
- Count those who visit the content afterwards (e.g., read the material, watch the videos)
- Create focus groups of 10 to 15 people and make the questions about next year’s conference (i.e., what they would like to see during another conference)
- Have the participants design the next conference
- You don’t have to use all of their ideas
How do you carry the learning through following the event?
- Take as much of the content as you legally can and give it back to the people who paid to come to the conference to read again, listen again or watch again
- Take bits and pieces of the content and send it out to the related industries
- Most of the time people come for the experience, not the content
- Don’t curate everything – it’s not all good
- Part of curation is effective chunking
Have you explored or reached out to participants to assess job transfer? What does that look like?
- Implement actionables
- Job aids
- List of five do’s and don’ts people can reflect on when they return to their workplaces
- Although you may not be able to follow participants back into their workplaces, set them up for success
- Sometimes an abundance of information and tools causes participants to do nothing
- Less is more
What would you advise for a smaller association with a tighter budget?
- Spend less money on food; people aren’t coming to feast
- Bring content leaders in by video instead of in person
- Try moving away from so much technology – encourage conversation
- Move toward compression (e.g., one day instead of two)
What incentives or attention grabbers have you found successful?
- Ask people to submit questions they’d like you to ask the speakers
- Point out where controversy exists in your field
- It better be fun even if it is deadly serious
How do you suggest learning leaders/planners/producers keep up with changing attendee education and experience needs?
- Keep your pulse on the hot topics
- Look at what is driving people in or out of your association/industry
- Real-time word maps at your conferences
Attendees don’t feel comfortable sharing failure. How do you reveal that?
- Programming it is almost impossible
- People will gravitate to it as long as they’re not announced as the leader or the case study
- Leverage the high and low points
- Reshape the conversation
Is there a time in which an event should take a sabbatical?
- This could keep the ideas and the experiences fresh
- Consider hosting a national conference every other year; on the odd years host regional events
We need to take a fresh look at the trade show/exhibitor/sponsor model.
- Frustration is growing
- People are attending as learners and not as buyers