Educational Versus Inspirational Events [en]

[fr] Going Solo vise à être une conférence qui non seulement donne de l'inspiration, mais qui enseigne également. Du coup, préparer le programme ne consiste pas simplement à trouver des orateurs pouvant faire des présentations autour d'un thème donné, mais ressemble beaucoup plus à la préparation d'un plan d'études: il y a tant de matière à couvrir, et il faut trouver les bonnes personnes pour le faire.

It was clear to me from the start, when I started imagining [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/), that the programme would be built in such a way as to cover a range of topics I thought were relevant. What I didn’t realize is that this is quite different from having a conference/event “theme” and hunting for speakers who have something to say around that theme.

I’ve many times tried to express that although Going Solo is not a workshop or a training session, it is training-like, but I never quite seemed to find a way to explain this clearly. I wanted to say “yes, it’s a conference, but the aim is for people to learn stuff they can use when they walk out.” I think I’ve nailed it now, though: Going Solo is educational more than inspirational.

Most conferences I go to fall in the “inspirational” category. Of course, I learn things there, but mainly, I am inspired, or lifted (if the conference is LIFT). When I planned my Open Stage speech to present Going Solo to the audience at LIFT (watch the video), I wanted it to be inspirational. It’s not a video that teaches you anything, but that inspires you to attend Going Solo (and it did indeed inspire people!)

Even if the conference theme is more technical, and the sessions actually teach you stuff, most often it is a series of related sessions grouped together around a given theme. Reboot is a perfect example of how a theme is used to collect all sorts of contributions.

Not so for Going Solo. Putting together the [programme for Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/programme/sessions/) feels much more like being in charge of defining the teaching programme for an academic year (only it’s a day, thank goodness, not a year). At the end of the day, I want the programme to have covered this, that and that. I try to organize the content into sessions, and then I talk with my speakers to see who can cover what.

I’m realizing now that this is the difficult bit — and as a speaker myself, I should have thought of this before. “Speaker topics” do not necessarily match “Steph-defined sessions” — which means I need to go back and reshuffle my sessions (perfectly doable, but it’s more work) to avoid overlaps and important topics slipping through the cracks.

Has anybody had similar experiences? And for any people reading who speak at conferences, if you agree on a topic with the chair and you’re asked to make sure your talk covers aspects x, y and z of the topic, does it make you feel micro-managed? Or is it something that happens regularly?

Partial cross-post from the Going Solo blog. Also on the Going Far blog.

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1 thought on “Educational Versus Inspirational Events [en]

  1. Each time I had to speak in conferences, I had my topic defined upfront by the organizer.
    They offered me a slot, and a topic, and sometimes also gave hint about how to cover the topic, what kind of audience.

    I did not feel micro-managed, I felt that I was helped. I could not know myself what the others would say, so the organizer had to help me avoid overlap. The organizer was setting the tone of the conference, knew about the attendance, and the expectations he set himself for the conference. So that was perfectly normal.

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