Why I won’t be rushing to attend KM conferences

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

This is a rant. I don’t rant much on the blog these days as I’d rather be doing stuff I like than railing against things I don’t. But once in a while the provocation gets the better of me.

When I read David Gurteen’s post, What is a Conversational Conference, I thought David was doing a good job of seeing the glass as half full. He quoted this blurb from KM Australia 2013:

What is a conversational event?

This congress will follow an interactive conversational format. Each speaker will present a case study for 25 minutes and conclude their presentation with a question to the audience.

The remaining 15-20 minutes of each session will be given to the audience to discuss the speakers talk and the question at their tables before going into a traditional Q&A.

This conversational format is intended to create an informal, relaxed atmosphere in which you, the conference participants, can get to know each other, learn from each other and build relationships.

Where to begin?

So basically they tweak the tired, standard conference format and insert a few minutes of highly controlled conversation. How much power does this give participants? No much. They are expected to answer a question set by the speaker; they must answer it with the people they are sitting next to. Not much freedom offered there. And then we hurry back to the weary old Q and A format.

I don’t know, but I wonder if they’re also going to sit people at those awful 8-person tables, where you can barely hear those sitting opposite you, but feel constrained to pretend that you can. Tables that so fill the room you are actively discouraged from moving around and deciding who to mix with? I wonder if the room will be semi-dark and gloomy, all the for benefit of some probably dead ugly slides that have print too small to read?

And this is the cutting edge of Knowledge Management? These are the folks who are supposed to be exploring the exciting frontiers of possibility? The ones who are here to revolutionise how organisations learn and relate?

This is their idea of a good time?

I’d rather watch paint dry.

Have any of these knowledge managers noticed this thing called the internet and the rise of peer-to-peer networks? Have they reflected that if you want to absorb a chunk of content, you can watch a youtube presentation at your own pace in your own time, so that when you actually meet people in the flesh you can actually talk?

Come to that, have they actually been to a coffee shop? Where they don’t have enormous tables and generally have daylight? And where people have loud animated conversations, amazingly without someone handing them a little card explaining (well, stipulating) what a conversation is, and what it would be wise for them to talk about, and who they should be talking about it with?

Dave Snowden tackles the same subject and offers an alternative approach. It’s not entirely my cup of tea but it’s an imaginative attempt to offer something different. I’d want to suggest something a bit more radical but that’s for another post.

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