donderdag 31 januari 2013

Conference formats: connecting comfort and innovation


Words that are more often than not at the core of a briefing for a conference, workshop, event or get together of some form. In the operationalisation more of than not the mismatch between the briefing and the actual get-together is clear: a speaker is put on stage in a plenary programme talking about something innovative with a flashy ppt or prezi or even a movie behind him (apologies, but usually it's a him:-)). Then for the interaction bit mics are on the floor and questions can be asked to the speaker and there are workshops where guests meet around a table.

It's a common format. With the occasional unconference thrown in. But does it work? Is this the best we can do? Do we dare to totally rethink and recreate conferences. Without being so innovative and off the charts that the guests feel uncomfortable. Can we create something innovation in get-togethers? I notice I am looking more and more to create a get together that really allows people to meet, to be immersed in innovation, to experience innovation....a form and content that actually totally breathes the subject through all its aspects. Where form and content totally strengthen each other. Talking about it with a.o. Maarten van der Sanden we concluded that the analogy for the format I'm after is that of the fish swimming against the current to get oxygen in. The water is the comfort, the "rubbing" of the current against the gills resulting in oxygen in the body. The total package resulting in vigorous swimming. And - more philosophically - the fish being totally fish.

The challenge is to develop a total concept that simultaneously allows guests to learn, to meet, to exchange ideas whilst being immersed. While being challenged. Challenged to question. Question their own ideas and those of others. Challenged to go where they fear to go, to think through and beyond existing conditions, boundaries and barriers. Not in the sense of day dreaming, but in the sense of exploring and through exploring creating new horizons. Something that offers the intimacy needed for those more shy to participate. So in short: a format that creates tension whilst at the same time offering the comfort that is so much needed if you want people to connect and learn. And learning, that is what I am interested in. Formal, informal, non-formal or under another denominator. True, productive meetings of minds, hearts and souls.

Do you recognise any of this? Do you have any ideas? Please do share them! Because as I start discussing this with colleagues and clients it turns out that this search is not mine alone. Many are thinking about this, struggling with it and trying to come up with something. So please share!

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