Holly Ross, Exceutive Director of NTEN, just left me this comment / question on my recent Mojo post (yes I am still getting comments – holy smokes!).
One question regarding general session speakers. I’ve been thinking for the last couple of years about their purpose, and if we need them at all. When you’re pressed for time at an event, I wonder if people would welcome or be better served by skipping the keynote for more networking or session opportunities.
Holly organizes the second biggest event (after ASAE) of each year (in my opinion), the Nonprofit Technology Conference, which by the way is in DC in March 2011 – can.not.wait!! So I realized that rather than just get a little reply from me, it might be really useful for her to hear from all of you about this.
Now it just so happened that I was re-reading, at the same time, this excellent post by Peggy Hoffman about the New Conference Attendee – who votes with their feet, who creates their own learning, who self-organizes (whether it’s unsessions or dance parties), who’s tech-savvy in terms of layering social learning on top of traditional learning. Everyone who reads this blog and has attended any kind of conference or event recently is probably to a greater or lesser extent one of these “new conference attendees”.
So Holly and I want to know – what do you think? Have our opinions changed about general session speakers in light of the ASAE experience (over several years) and in our personas as participatory learners?
Is the purpose of a general session keynote speaker to:
- be a big name that attracts registrations?
- whip up excitement to kick off the meeting?
- provide inspiration and set the thematic tone for the conference?
- none of the above?
- used to be a combination of these but not anymore?
I’ll admit I am torn about it. I still talk about how awesome Clay Shirky was at the Tech conference, and there are others that continue to come up in conversation. But we’re ABSOLUTELY desperate for more networking or learning time.
What do you think? What’s the purpose of a general session speaker, and do we still need them at all?