Most conferences use the traditional method of education in which an expert or experts at the front of the room provide their wisdom to the audience. Interaction is minimal and, when it happens in Q&A, is still one-directional knowledge transfer.
While this method has its advantages, certainly for conference organizers who have to deal with logistics, it also has limitations in what it achieves. At the Beer Marketing & Tourism Conference, one of our highest-rated sessions are the three-hour Sharing Best Practices sessions which turn this traditional method on its ear.
First off, we have all heard that people learn in different ways. Some of us do great sitting at a table, listening to an expert, and scribbling notes as the expert works hard to get in as much valuable advice as possible in an hour or less. We have been doing this since elementary school.
But others do not. Some people take it in but don’t put the knowledge into long-term memory that can use later. Others probably find the information overwhelming when presented this way. By having a general discussion that allows for a more varied flow, participants in the Sharing Best Practices sessions often learn more effectively.
Another concern with the traditional method is that the expert has to pick and choose – in advance – what information to provide. He or she will undoubtedly come up with a presentation and stick to that for most of the allotted time, meaning it is only during Q&A that the audience can direct (sort of) the conversation to topics of interest to listeners. By contrast, while we have an agenda in our Sharing Best Practices sessions the moderators are flexible and will give more time to topics that need it or even run with discussions not originally on the agenda.
Smartest Person in the Room
But perhaps the biggest criticism of the traditional uni-directional knowledge transfer is that in most conferences, the smartest person in the room is never as smart as the collective knowledge in the room. So having one person speak is almost never going to be as powerful as having everyone contribute. At the Sharing Best Practices sessions, everyone gets to contribute. If we are talking about branding or email marketing, those in the room with expertise can contribute.
Sharing Best Practices Sessions at BMTC20
At the Beer Marketing & Tourism Conference, we attempt to provide a new learning model by having three-hour Sharing Best Practices Sessions in which everyone contributes. These are broken into four sub-groups so you share with your peers: breweries, destination marketing organizations, tour operators, and brewery guilds. Each session is led by experienced industry participants. These take place the afternoon of the first day, Tuesday, February 4.
And it works. At our 2019 conference in Boise, all four Sharing Best Practices sessions rated “very good to outstanding” by attendees.
The one-directional knowledge transfer from experts is still a great way to run some conference sessions. It just isn’t possible to always let everyone contribute. Often times (keynotes) we want to hear what one person says and other times (learning about Search Engine Optimization) we need an expert.
But at the BMTC, definitely do not miss the Sharing Best Practices sessions. You might learn more here than the rest of the conference.