To Conference Planners, Peer-to-Peer Learning Communities, Meeting Designers

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Re: Is it time to reinvent how we gather?

Some of the ways that COVID forced us to reinvent, have been obvious.

For example… a decade of progress (made in months) towards learning to work remotely, and with a flexibility that was previously unimagined.

This efficiency, simultaneously shines a bright spotlight on a massive inefficiency, in how groups come back together.

Here’s the problem that forward thinking conference planners, learning community leaders, and large group meeting designers are quietly facing, head on:

The dramatic inefficiency of large gatherings, without understanding how to activate widespread learning, enable authentic connection @ scale, or truly build the spirit of community that is needed, to solve the world’s biggest challenges.

Here’s one example of an organization that we’ve partnered with, who is leading the way.

A few weeks ago, the Arthur W. Page Society (the world’s leading association for senior public relations, corporate communications executives and educators) gathered in Chicago for their annual conference.

For the first time in their history, led by Maureen Davenport of KPMG, Roger Bolton, President of Page, along with a member led planning team, Page designed an agenda with a brand new set of questions guiding them:

How can we design and facilitate intentional moments of reflection and conversation, to shift the learning from passive to active, amplifying the return we get on great speakers?

How can we balance the great insights that come from the stage, with professionally guided activities that unlock crowd sourced solutions… turning the whole room into idea generating peer coaches?

And how can this be orchestrated over 3 days, where the online and onsite groups are seamlessly integrated… ultimately building a whole new, scalable experience of belonging and community?

What Page realized… was that the sources of value that participants are looking for – Intellectual, Social, and Communal Capital… are easy to say, but require intentionality to genuinely deliver on.

And in a world where information has been commoditized, where we are all one zoom link from learning from anybody… if we are getting on airplanes, let’s have the courage to unlock the collective wisdom of the room.

Let’s design and facilitate questions and conversations that expand the learning- beyond the few who have brilliant answers – to include the many participants in the room who share the same questions.

Let’s tilt our designs to listen to the diverse strengths, experiences, and perspectives sitting in the room.

In the words of Roger Bolton, after reviewing the immediate conference feedback, “There’s no question that, as we had hoped, we have achieved a new way of helping our members achieve genuine, deep and meaningful connections. Thank you to xchange for showing us the way.”

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