People are the heart of a conference experience: conversation by design

The family is shaped by the direction in which it points its conversation. It can focus on its memories and basically keep on saying: “this is the way we are, this is what the different members of the family have done and are doing.” Or it may treat itself as a base from which its members set out to explore the outside world, and to which they return with something new to say, so that conversation is constantly enriched by outside as well as inside happenings. We become the prisoners of our families, our genes, our memories, only if we wish to be prisoners. It is by conversations with others, by mixing different voices with our own, that we can turn our individual life into an original work of art. –  Theodore Zeldin, Conversation

What makes or break a conference experience? People – their ideas, stories, and the resulting conversations. Some of this conversation happens during the conference sessions themselves. But more often it happens in the hallways during breaks, over lunch, or during informal events.

If hallway conversations are often the best part of a conference experience, how can we extend and play on the value of hallway conversations?

If a good presentation at a conference is merely a conversation starter, how can we extend the avenues available to us to continue those conversations?

If conversations build communities and keep refreshing them with new ideas, how can we use the conference experience to build, nurture, and welcome new members to a community?

Ever since he published the influential book Beyond Bullet Points, Cliff Atkinson has been trying to get people to rethink the way they do presentations. In The Backchannel he argues that presentations can become much more than a one-time information transfer event with limited opportunities for interaction. Instead he suggests that through the use of social media presentations can instead become part of an extended conversation.

Last year in the Innovation Lab at Open Text Content World we began a conversation around the challenge of adoption. During focus groups, usability tests, surveys, and in follow-up conversations with customers we’ve been exploring the extent of the adoption challenge faced by organizations. What we’ve discovered is that the various facets that influence adoption are poorly understood. Only a minority of organizations measure adoption. Few deploy with an adoption strategy in mind. ECM is too often treated as a technology platform and deployed with little understanding of the business context. Kyle McNabb from Forrester suggests that:

Most implementations fail to take into consideration business context… implementation teams know who their users are, but they know very little about the people that will use the technology. 

Gartner predicts:

When it comes to collaboration, IT organizations are accustomed to providing a technology platform (such as, e-mail, IM, Web conferencing) rather than delivering a social solution that targets specific business value. Through 2013, IT organizations will struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution. This will result in over a 70 percent failure rate in IT-driven social media initiatives. Fifty percent of business-led social media initiatives will succeed, versus 20 percent of IT-driven initiatives. Enterprises will need to develop entirely new skill sets around designing and delivering social media solutions. Until this happens, failure rates will remain high.

Like the presentation pyramid above, ECM technology is just the tip of iceberg. One of the most common mistakes organizations make when they deploy ECM is thinking they’re done once the deployment is rolled out. And yet, if you consider the adoption experience, deployment is only one step along the path of gaining traction across the organization. Think of deploying ECM in your organization as the beginning of an extended conversation with the people you expect to use it every day as part of their jobs and with the business to whom you’re delivering specific business value. Or, as one customer phrased it, think of it as moving from a ‘launch and leave’ to a ‘launch, listen, learn, and never leave’ philosophy.

In the Adoption Track at Content World this year, we’re going to continue the conversation around adoption. We’ll discuss what it means to take a people-centric approach to deploying ECM and how design thinking can help. And in keeping with the theme, we’re going to experiment with people-centric approaches to the design of the sessions and the track experience itself, using the Adoption Community to extend the experience before and after the conference.

At the heart of the the Adoption Track are conversations about people-centric topics, including:

  • the problem with requirements
  • ‘the GUI sucks’ – role of the interface in adoption
  • what prevents people from sharing knowledge
  • discovering how opportunities for innovation can come from putting people first
  • role of knowledge champions as agents of change
  • moving from a training to a learning culture
  • nudges, mind control, and the psychology of adoption
  • measuring adoption
  • usability testing

If you’re interested in bringing a more people-centric approach to deploying ECM solutions and giving your right brain a workout, join in the conversation at #OTCW. And let me know if you’re interested in participating on a panel, presenting a case study, or have ideas for additional topics of conversation.

And in the spirit of Beyond Bullet Points, we promise not to brain-damage anyone attending sessions in the Adoption Track with boring presentations packed with bullet points.

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    1. […] The family is shaped by the direction in which it points its conversation. It can focus on its memories and basically keep on saying: “this is the way we are, this is what the different members of the family have done and are doing.” Or it may treat itself as a base from which its members set out to explore the outside world, and to which they return with something new to say, so that conversation is constantly enriched by outside as well as inside happenings. We become the prisoners of our families, our genes, our memories, only if we wish to be prisoners. It is by conversations with others, by mixing different voices with our own, that we can turn our individual life into an original work of art. – Theodore Zeldin, Conversation *From Joyce Hostyn’s blog Designing Change. […]



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