Learn some tips and tricks to help plan a conference that inspires learning and engages learners with innovative interactive techniques and technology.
Conference planning can be a daunting task to a new training manager or someone tasked with organizing a conference on the side of their desk. The tips below expand on the basic conference planning checklist to provide some innovative and practical ideas to inspire an exciting, well-received conference.
Use of Technology at Conferences
More and more technology is being used in conferences to energize a presentation, engage learners outside of the sessions and/or to record sessions for participants that were unable to attend. For example:
- PowerPoint presentations and scanned handouts are being loaded onto branded USB credit card flash drives or uploaded to web document archives such as SharePoint sites.
- Sessions are being videotaped for posting on websites (podcasts) or filmed for live streaming
- Twitter hashtagsare being created for the conference and participants are interacting during the conference by tweeting, “I just learned that…” or “The workshop on X is…”
- Virtual conferences are being held with LiveMeeting or other webinar software, VOIP or conference phone lines including break-out rooms where a subset of participants are discussing cases or questions
Technology can make workshops and keynote presentations very engaging and professional or be a total disaster if technical glitches prevent speakers from delivering their messages. The best plan is to always have a back-up to any technology used. For example, save PowerPoint presentations on the hard drive of a laptop, email it to a webmail enabled account, upload it to a cloud or SharePoint site and/or save it on a flash drive. In addition, have clear black and white originals of the presentation at the ready in case you need to photocopy the presentation at the last minute.
Interactivity at Conferences
Gone are the days (hopefully) of talking head presenters who lecture their audiences. Today, innovative conference planners know that learning happens when participants engage in the learning and concepts are presented to address the needs of multiple learning styles. For example:
- A world cafécan have a variety of formats but is usually a series of short (approximately 10 minute) presentations from different speakers (could be different vendors, service organizations, etc.) that participants rotate to like speed dating.
- Common known games (board games, Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, etc.) templates can be found online and used to create customized games participants can play to learn key concepts such as where something can be found on a website or within an organization, learn steps of a process or various paths possible to complete a process.
- Online or paper voting or polling of participants with results posted quickly (ideally within the session) to, for example, make a point about how common something is or not.
Engaging participants using innovative techniques that encourage interactivity and dialogue can produce a very exciting conference that learners will rave about!