Science of Learning for Conferences


Over the last year or so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about learning at conferences. I’ve also taken to the conferences-on-conferences circuit to speak on the issue.

All too often, conference speakers don’t follow science-of-learning prescriptions. Conference sessions may make the audience happy, but may not provide the kinds of supports that help people remember and apply what they’ve learned.

This is bad for conference attendees and their organizations — because they never realize the benefits of what was learned. But it’s also bad for conference organizers as well — because their customers may not be getting all the value they might be getting.

A few days ago, Michelle Russell, editor at Convene Magazine, wrote a great article on implementing the science of learning in conferences. She interviewed me and Peter C. Brown, co-author of the wonderful book, Make it Stick, and winner of the Neon-Elephant Award last year.

Here’s Michelle’s Article:

It’s a great read. Michelle does amazing work. I recommend you read the article now and then leave your reflections here so we can get a conversation started.

Making changes to conference learning is not easy. Traditions and expectations push against innovations. Still, in attending several recent conferences, I’ve noticed some very different formats being used to great acclaim.

Jeff Hurt

My go-to expert on conference learning is Jeff Hurt of Velvet Chainsaw. Indeed, it was Jeff who got me thinking seriously about conference learning. We’ve even co-presented on the topic a number of times.

Here are two blog post by Jeff that describe typical dangerous assumptions about conference learning:

Improving Keynotes

Here’s an article I wrote on how to improve the learning benefits of Keynotes:

Learning Coaches

In Michelle’s article above, Peter C. Brown recommended that conferences have learning coaches to help support speakers and attendees in learning. I’d love to take on that task.

And I’m curious. Have you seen anyone play that role? What works? What doesn’t?


What are Your Reflections on Conference Learning?

Also, I’m wondering what your experiences are around learning at conferences…Leave comments below…