How will conferences change post-COVID? #COVID-19 #conferences


Patrick Lambe
 

I’m posting the question in the subject line to both SIKM forum and KM4Dev, so apologies if you see it twice.

There was a question on KM4Dev about speakers for a conference. Bev Wenger-Traynor morphed it into a question about people with something to offer. Arthur Shelley distinguished between speaking and facilitating. Nancy Dixon has been speaking for a while about the importance of dialogue.

I am wondering how our conception of conferences (and other convening events where large audiences are expected to listen to/follow small elite cadres) will change post-COVID? I am wondering how the economics of such events might change. 

Let me give an example of post-COVID shifts in how we at ISKO Singapore are experiencing new ways of interacting. We are the Singapore chapter of an international organisation. Each country chapter runs its own programmes.

We used to have monthly in-person events. We would book a venue and refreshments, and get a speaker or a panel. We always tried to have networking and discussion, it wasn’t just listening. We got on the zoom wagon early, because we had attracted a couple of members from outside Singapore, so we would do live streaming for our overseas attendees, with them whatsapping questions or comments to be interposed. We started bringing in speakers/panellists by zoom as well to interact with the local panel. Our horizons broadened.

Since COVID all our events have gone online. We have become completely “leaky”. Our last event attracted folks from 12 countries. We have barely no costs. Our society’s members are essentially patrons, providing the volunteers and minimal funding to offer events to anyone who cares to attend (or see the materials afterwards) - very much on the SIKM Leader’s Forum model, but with a core group that has a shared Singapore identity and agenda. We are now starting to wonder what it means to be a country chapter. Old conceptions are starting to break down. 

Mainstream conferences, to survive, have started to experiment with new formats in a digital environment. I am wondering if we do have an in-person event this year or next year, how could it be different? How could we make better use of folks’ time being in the same space? Will conferences become “leaky” too, distributed over time, and with digital and physical components? How will the economics work? Or will (sponsoring) employer expectations force us back into our old passive habits?

I do think it’s worth bringing folks physically into a shared space in order to interact, ask questions, inquire, and share. I’m not convinced of the egocentric personality model where the “names” are the principal actors. Yes, names are good, as seeds for convening or to share experience or insight or to spark discussion (as Bev says, folks with some experience/skills to offer, and enough confidence to share). I would not even go so far as to recommend the use of the word “facilitator” because I think that has become contaminated with the notion of a special person (s/he who tells us - sorry suggests to us - what to do next). 

I prefer the terms convenors (to frame the invitation) and brokers (to help folks make connections with each other or in dialogue). The more convenors and brokers the better. In fact, we should all be convenors and brokers. We should all be pointing up other people’s good work so that they get curated into events.

So how will conferences change? Or will we slip back into dark-panelled ballrooms with no natural daylight watching large screens flicker expecting to be entertained and fed, and shuffling from session to session?

Bev, I would be fascinated to learn what your experiences with BEtreat might suggest.

By the way, if anyone is curious about our upcoming ISKO events check out www.iskosg.org - all welcome.

P

Patrick Lambe
Partner
Straits Knowledge

phone:  +65 98528511

web:  www.straitsknowledge.com
resources:  www.greenchameleon.com
knowledge mapping:  www.aithinsoftware.com

Join main@SIKM.groups.io to automatically receive all group messages.