"Learning day"? That’s just another way of saying “conference”, right?
Well…for some people, maybe. For us? No. Sure, at some conferences you’re bound to learn something- it’s just more likely to be delivered via PowerPoint with the words “learning objectives” on a flipchart.
Thankfully, that’s not who we are, and we’re lucky enough to have found some friends who agree that perhaps that way of learning (or teaching) isn’t the way forward.
We’ve recently been asked by Jonathan Smith, of local Business Forums fame (seriously, if there’s someone that doesn’t know Jonathan, they’re not worth knowing), to aid him in engineering an event which shakes up the offer he currently provides his community of businesses and business people. And, as lovers of challenges, we said of course. Why not?
We’ve got the theme- “Happy High Performance”- which incapsulates everything to do with personal growth and business growth. We’ve got our brand, website, social media and marketing set up. The sessions are being finalised. The tickets are on sale.
But here’s the thing. How do you create something different, exciting enough for people to get what it is, like it enough to see the value in it, and come along?
Good question. Here’s what we’re trying in order to shake things up…
There’s been a lot of articles recently about the impact a venue has on the outcome of a day or a session (including this one from Warwick Conferences on their creative spaces) and it seems like a no-brainer. Want to do an event that’s different? Go somewhere different. It’s almost that simple. Get the right venue and you have instant impact, not to mention great theming, (often) great food and a great atmosphere that encourages discussion. Oh, and FUN.
Our venue for Happy High Performance is a tipi. Yes, an actual tipi…located at Caffeine & Machine in Ettington. A perfect venue in two ways- firstly, tipis evoke all sorts of lovely images of sharing thoughts, ideas and experiences; secondly, Caffeine & Machine’s brand is all about high performance. It’s in their name: coffee and fast cars.
Oh, and because we’re in a tipi, we’ve got a couple of restrictions on what we can do. The first one being that PowerPoint is OUT. Gone. Banned. Yes, so it’s not impossiblein the venue, but it would be tricky- more than enough of an excuse for us to be brave enough to rule it out altogether. Sorry everyone, no slides. Luckily, this gives all of us involved the challenge to come up with a creative way of delivering sessions and will hopefully be a refreshing change. (We’re also very close to ruling out flipcharts. We hate them.)
Our second restriction is seating. The tipi itself holds a number of picnic tables and wooden arrangements- and we love it. It breaks the mould of the dreaded theatre or cabaret styles so often seen anywhere else and should naturally encourage discussion.
With quite a few breakout sessions happen simultaneously, we also have the wonderful task of finding some extra breakout spaces. Ideas currently range from outdoor pow-wows under the old trees (weather permitting) to old charabanc coaches set up outside. Regardless of the outcome, it’s definitely going to be different.
As a result of this different approach, we’ve also been quite prescriptive on what we want from our sessions- including generating a set of “rules” for our hosts. The last thing we want is to design and deliver a learning day that looks different, but which is actually just a cleverly-hidden version of conference 101…set in a tipi.
Here’s what we’re after:
It might seem a little harsh, but in order to fulfil the brief of a “different” learning event, we’re going to have to be quite selective and ensure each session fits the theme and atmosphere of the day. We’ve got some great potential sessions in the mix right now, so it’s actually looking like choosing the right ones will be the hardest part!
On top of all of this, there’s some creative and crazy ideas being thrown around for outside of the main session content…playing around with the car theme (Scalextric, anyone? VR, gaming, leader boards, chequered flags), thinking inside of the box (which may, quite literally, be an actual box), as well as setting up some amazing alternative learning sessions (bread making? Cocktail classes? Wooden spoon whittling?!) if you fancy trying something totally out of the ordinary.
As ever with this process, the event will evolve and grow the closer we get to the actual day. Who knows what it could end up like! All we know is that it will be fun.