Many conferences are downright boring. They are what I call "death by powerpoint"; "chalk and talk" or "sit and git" conferences. The delegates (the willing victims) are forced to sit in neat rows and be talked at. At the end of the talk; there may be time allowed for questions but often the speaker over runs and this time is cut short or the questioners take the advantage of an opportunity to speak and give mini-presentations of their own. Delegates are usually far too polite to complain and in any case it was the way they were educated and although they switch off and indulge in some internal thoughts they see nothing unusual about it . Its nothing new; its the way its always been.As well as for my community, I also run Gurteen Knowledge Cafes at public and private conferences for event organizers. These Knowledge Cafes are normally designed around a theme pertinent to the conference - typically where the conference organizer is looking to encourage dialogue between cross-functional groups and wishes to encourage people to start to think more about collaborating, sharing their knowledge and working together in new ways.
But it need not be this way. If people are to really learn; then they need to engage with the topic and to have conversations with each other; "What did you make of that?" "What do you think?" "Yes that worked for him but would not work for me because ..."; conversations in which people get to share their views, ideas, experiences and perspectives and thus hugely enrich the experience of the "lecture" and internalize the knowledge.
I have seen people at conferences who have hardly talked to another delegate for the whole of the day - especially if lunch is a stand up and not a sit down affair. Gurteen Knowledge Cafes help turn a conference from a "sit and git" passive experience into an active participatory learning one. Not only is the learning enhanced but it allows the participants (not delegates) to connect and interact with each other; to network and form new relationships. Each talk can be turned into a mini-cafe or one or more full Knowledge Cafes can be built into the conference agenda thus transforming an event .
Now read on ...
I have run dozens of these Knowledge Cafes, for example at KM Asia 2003 in Singapore and ECKM 2003 at Oriel College, Oxford and at ECKM 2005 at Limerick University, Ireland which Gabriela Avram blogged and I also run one at ICKM 2006 at the University of Greenwich .
A brief introduction to the Gurteen Knowledge Cafe
A Gurteen Knowledge Cafe typically lasts between one and three hours depending on its format. They can be run for as few as 15 people or as many as 100, possibly more but work best for about 30 -40 people.
Although a basic Knowledge Cafe can be run in as little as 1 hour, I also run them with a longer than normal introductory talk on the chosen theme and give a fuller description of the Cafe; its philosophy and its benefits. These sessions might last for 2 - 3 hours. But typically at a conference, a Knowledge Cafe lasts about 1 1/2 hrs.
You will find more detailed information about Knowledge Cafes on other areas of this site. But here is a very brief resume.
A Knowledge Cafe is designed to engage people with a subject or theme. I start with a short talk on a theme, maybe as little as ten minutes (though it could be a longer 30-45 minutes talk) and then pose one or two open ended questions for the participants. They then break into groups to discuss the theme and questions and then reconvene as a large group to finish off with a whole group discussion.
The Cafe is not about debate or making decisions but about gaining a better mutual understanding of a topic or issue.
I am an avid networker. I naturally love to help people to 'make their knowledge productive'. If you think I could help, I am more then happy to take the occasional phone call or e-mail or meet for lunch though clearly I charge for more substantial consulting, coaching or other support.
If you would like to talk or learn more about any of my services then please contact me.
Video: Knowledge Cafe at KMAP 2006
Gurteen Knowledge Cafe at KMAP 2006 in Hong Kong, December 2006, facilitated by David Gurteen and Raksha Sukhia. Courtesy of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Knowledge Management Research Centre.
Flickr Slideshow: Photographs from Gurteen Knowledge Cafes