This is formed off the back of conversations with various people, following the CIPD L&D Conference in London. There was a sense of “meh” kicking around some folk I spoke to… Others were warmer. It wasn’t terrible… It just wasn’t rockingly good.
I’m not into bemoaning The Current too much unless it is going to spur on new thinking and ideas…. For me, this is the lived joy of learning being iterative – OK. this isn’t doing all it could… So what Else? What More? What Different?
The answers, often, lie both inside and outside the system…. So you pull the information from inside the heart of the conference created and those who joined in ………..and you talk with those on the outside who are doing the Else, the More, the Different… Then Synthesise, blend, try.
Simple? Well…maybe, but this is true learning. Which I believe requires some effort, perhaps some bravery and certainly a surrendering of ego and “expert” status.
Yes. You know how to put on a show. You have done it many times before…. But are you still doing it well? Is it still giving you joy to run?
So after a couple of days thinking and talking, I was mulling on the notion of a Conference where there was a sliding scale of speakers & content – at one end of the scale, you have This Bunch saying the stuff that is Mad, Bad and Dangerous to think about for the status quo in organisations… Self organising teams, policy-less offices, enabling tech, considerate work spaces, whatever else is out there, thinking wise…
Then somewhere in the middle are the practical experiments… The case studies of “we gave this a go & it went well/badly/ completely off piste”
And at the other end there is the nuts n bolts This is What works fairly consistently/ there be dragons type stuff.
And in the pub this evening, we (Sarah Boyd, Helen Amery , Gareth Jones) were talking conferences and conversations and building Networks that make your thinking zing…. And tired formats and how often our thinking is shaped and shaken by the new, or the unthinkable (I’m paraphrasing) Sarah suggested a conference where the speakers came with a chilli warning….
I love this notion and want to play a little… So here is a not carefully thought out recipe for a Red Hot Chilli Conference… Please feel free to jump in and add to:
Speaker Content: Hot hot hot – achingly sharp and tinglingly sense provoking – the sort that makes the audience sweat. Sign up only if you out are ready for your thoughts to be blown up and your metabolism to race
Picante – a little spicy and compelling, something to savour that will lift your senses. Good for those who are seeking a little thought heat. Sign up if you are ready to be stimulated.
Mild – the pleasantly bland, but still adventurous for those more used to fish n chips.
Sign up if you’re feeling a little adventurous or have been through organisational equivalent of vindaloo of late & are seeking less fiery stories.
Exhibition Content: Hot Hot Hot – pop up stands with small innovative practices talking about or showing what they are doing -cheap, discursive, interactive, only there for short times. Collaborative spaces where an individual can book time to invite folk to help them think through an issue; Simple Message boards with “seeking” messages on them. Research posts – places you can go to sign up to be part of organisational research. Content centres where attendees can watch/ listen /post or vote for their favourite TED talk/ Podcast/ Viral video…. I dunno… Help me?
Picante – interactive and fun/ serious play stands, well presented, welcoming and offering some cool stuff (both freebies and conversations) (@I saw a few of these at Olympia and I salute the thought and care many exhibitors out in to capturing our attention.)
Mild – solid stands, bit stark, Ronseal approach “we do this”. (At the end of the day a 360 tool is a 360 tool and in certain contexts might be useful). Let’s not pretend we need to start revolutions everywhere and embrace certain things as old friends, rather than getting cross with them.
And then some other ideas:
Mash up your speakers, diversity would be so cool to hear from a radical cross section
Give the speakers some really stretching guidelines & support prior to arrival… What does good content sound like? What make audiences stay?
Stream the speakers. Live. And feedback the twitter reactions (gently in some cases)in the room to allow Speakers to address, humanly, some of the audience frustrations or delights.
Re- imaging your relationship with the people who attend. Are they paying to be entertained, or are they rocking up to learn. If it is to learn, what can they / are they prepared to offer in terms of wisdom, expertise or questions that will generate a learning environment?
As I write this I am conscious of a number of flaws in my thinking and factors I’ve not captured….and I feel an urge to acknowledge the sheer logistical leviathan that must be required to get a big scale conference going. So for those who did organise and step up to take responsibility to get the show on the road, and those high up who enabled such a event to develop, I genuinely see that and appreciate the work put in. The point of this blog post is to ask, less for harder work, more for different thinking and different trying.
What is the Else, the More, the Different that will make a Red Hot Chilli Conference?
Post Script: since I started writing this, the Social Machine has already started to work its magic.