Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Co-Creation and Meetings

In a recent webinar, Doug Amann from Pfizer made this point: If we're going to invest all of the money and resources to bring a large group of people together, let's maximize the interaction! "Broadcast" presentations -- one expert talking to an audience -- can be done very effectively online or on DVD's. Why bring people together to listen? What the face-to-face experience is exceptionally GOOD at is individual and small-group interactions. How can we make THOSE interactions the focus of our meetings?

Planners (and event sponsors) tend to rather LIKE the traditional, broadcast-style conferences. They are predictable. They are controllable. We all know how they work. If we can get the butts in the seats, we know (we think) how to deliver a great program (or at least a program kinda like last year's). And frankly, the audience tends to go along with it -- no one's expectations are normally that high. They'll sit in the seats. They'll listen to talks. They'll want to be entertained. And if this experience is comparable to other conference experiences, they'll generally give you positive scores on the feedback forms.

But how does this experience compare to actual meaningful events in our lives? Are we connecting with people? Are we learning anything useful? How will we be different after these events? With rare exceptions, a lecture hall experience will not create these kinds of changes.

So what will? I've been talking about collaboration, networking, and interaction. On a great twitter chat today, the focus shifted to "co-creation" -- working together to build something new. This might be a new invention. It might be a new process. It might be a new way to understand the world. Let's take your understanding and my understanding and see what we can build with a new, shared understanding.

Co-Creation -- the multi-day conference is the perfect venue for this. The conference creates a community -- a group of people bound together in shared experiences, new knowledge, a physical location, and even sporting handy community ID badges. This community builds trust among its members. This trust might be stronger or weaker among different parts of the community, but in sharing a good speaker, a challenging breakout, a karaoke fiasco, we build trust together. With trust and with our shared interest (the topic of the conference), we have the foundation for co-creation.

All we need now is the time, the space and the tools. Conferences tend to pack their schedules so that everyone feels like they didn't "waste their time". It's important to build in time for co-creation. At most events, the "water cooler conversations" happen in the hallways -- how can we create a more formal, useful environment for co-creation to take place? Finally, what tools are needed for co-creation? Marker boards are a great start for brainstorming, mind-mapping, and creating back-of-the-napkin drawings of your big ideas. Writing tools. Drawing tools. Display tools. Diagramming tools. Modeling tools. What are all of the different materials people might need to create something new together?

Make your "attendees" into "participants". Get them creating things together, and they will remember your event forever. "THAT was the moment our organization changed forever."

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