Yay! Another fabulous comment/question posted on the Mojo post just yesterday (told you I was still getting comments!). Can you help Jennifer?
…What really prompted me to post though is a question I have about what exactly you (and others who have thoughts) are looking for in educational sessions. As someone who is not a vendor and has done presentations (contributed through the ASAE Committee process) at several ASAE annual meetings, including ASAE10, I would love to get input on specifically what it is that makes an educational session â€œsuper high endâ€ . I ask because what I often hear is something along the lines of â€œthe programming isn’t challenging enoughâ€ and â€œI get more out of talking with [insert group - my colleagues, YAPsters, CAEs, etc] in the halls.â€ What I don’t hear are many specifics about what would resonate content-wise and what makes a session challenging enough.
My experience has been that once sessions are selected ASAE provides speakers with lots of tips and resources relative to content delivery/packaging. Based on what I’ve read here and heard at other times about the quality of sessions, what might be more useful is for ASAE to develop a list of tips/thoughts/ideas that is shared with committees, councils, and others submitting sessions that will help session developers better understand and hone in on the elements that lead to â€œsuper high endâ€ educational experiences.
What I’m also wondering about is the attendee’s responsiblity to making the learning experience â€œsuper high endâ€ . My impression is that most speakers are sincerely trying to do good work during their presentation time slots. Some miss the boat, but most are adhering as best they can to good content-delivery practices and most are offering opportunities for attendees to engage with each other. Are there better tips that can be provided to attendees that will allow them to maximize their own learning? Or, could there be, with speakers’ knowledge, a â€œseedâ€ or two planted in every session who has the job of modeling audience engagement and supporting speakers in the effort to clearly articulate why the content matters and how it can be useful on the job?
Forgive me for summarizing here, but what I’m seeing in Jennifer’s comment are the following questions (in a nutshell):
1) what makes a session challenging enough content-wise?
2) what could ASAE [or any other association/conference organizer] do to help speakers develop better sessions around their chosen topics?
3) how could ASAE [or any other association/conference organizer] do to help attendees maximize their own learning?
I think these are great questions and I would think given what we’ve all been discussing about the new conference attendee (and not just here on our blog!) and the evaluation feedback we’ve all been giving to ASAE post #ASAE10, that they are probably (hopefully) pondering exactly these questions and more. It’s definitely easy to either “vote with our feet” or grumble about sessions not being up to par than it is to define exactly what we want.
So I will offer up my answers, and I hope you will share yours!!
Q1 – I think everyone has different needs, and there seems to be a frequent disconnect between the session description and the actual thing. Which actually is no surprise, since we’re asked to submit session proposals months and months before the event. I think there’s something broken in the proposal / conference design process, like square pegs are being fit into round holes. I wish we could propose “desire to speak” on “x areas of expertise” at the proposal deadline, then go through some sort of collaborative discussion and design process with all of the possible speakers, based on a set theme for the conference and whatever necessary parameters were needed (such as 101-201-301, x number of sessions for particular tracks, diversity of formats, etc.). Where everyone could talk about it all and then propose specific session ideas. Then the top x number would be selected (by the association staff and whoever does this normally) and those not selected could choose to do unsessions if they so chose, but the whole thing would be transparent as to the process for selecting. The end result (or goal) would be to have something for every kind of learner.
Q2 – For me as a speaker, who like probably many ASAE speakers have earned my current reputation as such through lots and lots of practice but NOT through any formal speaking training, I would really love the chance to participate in speaker training or even just facilitated discussions specifically about speaking, provided by ASAE. I would pay for that for sure! I have attended exactly one three-hour “presentation workshop”, (not at ASAE) put on by the truly inspiring Jeffrey Cufaude, and I learned a lot from it. It was really useful for me to sit in a room with other seasoned speakers and really dig into the topic. I’d definitely have an interest in educating myself more about adult learning, about public speaking and keynoting, about creative session formats (I’ve experimented a lot with Prezi, tried Pecha Kucha, facilitated round tables, moderated different kinds of panels, etc etc etc) and definitely (of course!) about cool interactive presentation tools (like Google Moderator or Vue). I think since ASAE uses so many members as speakers, that would be very valuable to those of us who may not have formal training, as long as the “trainers’ trainers” were really good, like Jeffrey. Because there is no doubt that at the end of the day we all want to learn from our peers who work in and for associations!
Q3 – I think ASAE could do a lot in the area of helping attendees maximize their learning. There are some true experts in this field (of course Jeff Hurt comes to mind) and it might be as easy as coming up with some kind of ”guide for how to get the most out of the conference” or something. I am also aware that the Professional Development Council will be much more involved in the ASAE Great Ideas conference, and I bet those guys have a TON of great advice on this point. I hope some of you will share!
Over to you. What do you think? What do we really want out of conference education? How would you answer Jennifer’s questions?