Innovation Conference Design

Learn about the rationale behind “leadership for innovation” conferences and how to design one for your own organization. See specific innovation workshop activities for an innovation conference that Darin can design and facilitate for your culture of innovation initiative or leadership event. Contact darin@innovationtraining.org to let us know about the innovation summit, conference, or retreat you are developing.


This is an example of a keynote that can start or close an innovation conference. This Ted Talk style keynote could also be live streamed.

Learning to Innovate & Lead Innovation

Most of us didn’t learn innovation deeply in school or at work, but these skills are needed now more than ever. Change, new technologies, and unseen disruptions are happening at such a pace that we need to do continuous learning to respond, stay relevant, and grow. How can we innovate how we learn – to learn to innovate and reap the benefits? Be inspired into action by launching small innovations for your own personal challenge and for the greater purpose of developing your innovation skills. We’ll explore how to cultivate an innovator’s mindset. Take action by running experiments, failing fast and cheap, and having successes…and learning from it all! Demystify and build an awareness of what it really is like to innovate and make it a part of your life and work.

Video clip from innovation keynote speaker Dr. Darin Eich


Design your Own Innovative Leadership Conference for Leadership Development

Leadership for Innovation Conference

This article will benefit any individual developing an innovation culture experience to help others collaborate, learn, and engage in innovation. It is most applicable to those designing a design thinking or innovation conference or retreat with a goal of leadership development, learning, and innovative concept design and action through group and personal experiences.

This article seeks to inform innovative leadership development practice by advancing the connection to leadership theory as well as learning and development strategies. Many leadership conferences begin as student programs that are good opportunities for participants to connect with one another or gain motivation for the year. However, this article hopes to elevate innovation conferences and retreats to the next level where specific leadership skills and qualities of mind are developed in the participant, thus elevating the status of “leadership” in the leadership retreat or conference for the purpose of innovation or positive change.

There are a number of different ways to develop the practice of and capacity for leadership in a participant through an innovation program. It can generally be done bit by bit over an extended period of time (e.g., innovation courses) or in a single, longer episode, such as a retreat or conference. A conference is unlike a program or a course where participants may only meet for an hour or so at a time on a weekly basis. A retreat or conference is an opportunity to educate in a very limited amount of time, but at an intensive pace. For instance, participants can spend three days together and achieve a significant amount of learning as well as progress towards innovation and arguably be influenced more than meeting every other week for an hour over the timeframe of a few months. By focusing the amount of time in a longer episode, significant personal, group, and leadership development can occur in a coherent fashion and contribute positively to the participant’s leadership capacity.

Short-term, intensive sessions like retreats can be good mechanisms for raising consciousness and enhancing motivation while longer-term interventions might be better for skill building. A retreat can be a launching pad for a longer-term leadership skill-building program.

Finally, a retreat or conference can provide that “aha” moment that advances the participant’s leadership development for innovation. A quality retreat or conference can provide a leadership awareness opportunity where the participant gains a new perspective in thinking about leadership as a relational group process rather than as an individual position or responsibility.

Context

This article will speak to the intensive, non-stop, innovative leadership learning and doing experience known in different circles as a leadership conference, workshop, retreat, institute, academy, training, program, etc. The same type of day-long or multi-day experience is known as a conference or retreat by different organizations. Whatever the name, this experience is a short-term (half-day to one-week), non-stop, innovative leadership experience.The most common terms seem to be conference, retreat, and workshop. Typically, a retreat is known as an off-site experience for people that are a part of the same group whereas a conference is an experience for people of different groups to come together. However, the terms are used interchangeably. A workshop can also be a portion of a conference or retreat or be known as a day long or half-day leadership education program. Despite the confusion and different naming of the experience, for the purposes of this article, we will predominately rely on the term leadership conference or retreat to represent this intensive experience.

These intensive leadership for innovation intervention experiences are typically a few hours to a few days in length, but occur as one coherent session no matter how long they last. Leadership conferences are a form of leadership education designed to ultimately impact the larger leadership development of the individual. We will focus on innovation as the more specific leadership skill and outcome that the retreats will be designed for.

Many times an innovative leadership conference is a part of a larger innovation or leadership development initiative or even curriculum. A retreat is often a component of a program or even a course typically occurring at the beginning or sometimes end of the extended program or course. The retreat is something that professionals either attend voluntarily or as a requirement for involvement in some group.

Simply offering an innovation leadership conference is not enough. Institutions education experiences in diverse and connected ways inside and outside of the organization to be responsive to their missions and the changing world.

Because of the sheer scope, great opportunity exists to enhance this common delivery method for preparing leaders for innovation and engage them in doing it collaboratively. Since many organizations currently offer this form of program for the development of their leaders and organizations, creating a quality experience is of value to many practitioners. The challenge exists in linking this retreat or conference intervention more directly to learning: personal, group, and ultimately leadership, to enhance the quality of the leadership education experience and to maintain fidelity to the outcomes inherent in a “leadership development” conference or retreat.

The leadership conference or retreat format is very present in the landscape of organizations. It is also generally easier to develop and administer than other methods such as courses and programs due to the short-term length.

Summary

            The leadership development of leaders at all levels is an important part of the organization experience to innovate for the future. Institutional mission statements and societal needs both reflect the value placed in educating individuals who can engage successfully in the leadership process and contribute to the growth of our society. A well-designed leadership conference will contribute positively to personal development, group development, and ultimately leadership development of the participant who will contribute to future innovations. This development and learning equips the participant with skills to practice leadership and innovation better and make a difference in their organizations and our society.

Application

Introduction

Is the conference really promoting leadership learning and innovation or is it just an opportunity for leaders to get together? Some “leadership conferences” lack intentional leadership content. Others closely resemble an extended social/ recreational time consumed by games, candy eating, and fun. The fun should stay, but learning, informed teaching, and leadership development should be infused as well. A more direct usage of leadership and innovation theory in the content of the conference can increase learning and outcomes for innovation.

Since leadership is about people relating with one another and collaboration is key to innovation, intentionally building community at the conference from the onset is imperative. The first moments should be comprised of a multitude of team development activities to accelerate the forming of community. Within community, participants can also spend a good amount of time at the retreat doing inner work. Parker Palmer suggests that inner work is very personal, but need not be private. A community of leaders can go on this inner journey together.

From my perspective, learning fuels the leadership development of the participant and their capacity to innovate for the future. The learning at the retreat happens best when the group and the individuals learn together from experiencing, reflecting, and making meaning of past, present, and future innovative leadership experiences. They can reflect on something they have done in the past, an activity they currently are doing, or on a plan for the future. The leadership development happens in the form of a combination of personal development and group development. Learning fuels the growth of both individuals and the group.

As more and more people appreciate leadership (and innovation) as something that can be learned, how does one teach it? Teaching leadership, or more appropriately, facilitating leadership learning and development requires the instructor to become aware of their own assumptions about teaching and learning. Learning can happen in many different places and in many different ways. Conference developers, staff, and teachers are helping participants learn innovative leadership. It may not reflect traditional notions of a lecturer in front of a class, but it is definitely teaching. It is valuable for the teacher to both know the content of the subject and how to best facilitate learning of the subject. People doing the teaching at a conference may not know much about the leadership or innovation literature. It is important to acquire some of this important knowledge as well as experience. It is not necessarily a requisite to know the subject in depth to do this kind of educating at a retreat, but there are some books that may provide a very helpful crash course, especially the book chosen for use at the conference. Those who design and facilitate leadership retreats should do so from a theoretical frame based on the scholarship in leadership. The educators who lead sessions at such conferences and retreats should seek to integrate their own expertise areas by familiarizing themselves with some of the important innovative leadership methods such as design thinking, lean startup, etc.

Learning and Developing Leadership

All assumptions about what a teaching or learning experience should look like aside, how will your leadership conference participants best learn? Use general research-based principles for improving learning. These principles could be applied to the design, implementation, and facilitation of a leadership conference.

Integrating different styles of teaching is essential since students have different ways of learning. Leadership facilitators must help students make the connection between experience and learning. Kolb’s experiential learning model is based on the notion that learning is conceived as a four-stage cycle. Immediate concrete experience is the basis for observation and reflection. A person uses these observations to build an idea, generalization, or “theory” from which new implications for action can be deduced. These implications or hypotheses then serve as guides in acting to create new experiences.

Kolb indicates that effective learners need four different kinds of abilities: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Students must involve themselves fully, openly, and without bias in new group and leadership experiences. They must be able to observe and reflect on these leadership and group experiences. They must be able to create concepts that integrate their observations into logically sound theories; and they must be able to use these theories to make decisions and solve problems.

In essence, providing experiences for participants to connect theory to what they are practicing and observing is an important part of engaging participants in innovative leadership learning. A teacher of innovative leadership will tend to look less like a lecturer and more like a facilitator of experience and guide in reflection. This is especially true at a leadership retreat or conference. The lines will blur between teacher and learner. Everyone in the leadership learning community at the conference should take responsibility for teaching each other and learning together. An effective facilitator builds this community and designs the leadership-learning environment. Learning about oneself, learning about others, and forming a community before and during the learning of the subject matter are important elements in creating a meaningful leadership conference.

Planning the Innovation Conference

There are many different design elements and considerations to be aware of well before the participants arrive at the conference. Good planning for the next retreat or conference begins at the current one. It involves collecting information that will give you leverage to improve the next time around. This is best done at the retreat both formally through evaluations and informally through observation. Informed development also has many other logistical features that I will briefly share.

Whether your audience is voluntary or mandatory influences how you develop the program. Do the participants already know one another? If students do not know one another, more time is needed for group development than for groups that have already formed and developed. Many times a leadership retreat involves a group who already knows one another and is “retreating” to become a stronger group or advance the work that they are already doing. A conference need not be the only leadership education experience for a group. It can also be the end or beginning of something larger. A conference can be sustained by attaching a program after it or a conference can cap off a year of development for a group.   Also,participants can meet beforehand to prepare for the conference or meet afterward on a regular basis to continue the group development.

Some of the best leadership learning happens well before the conference. Involve a wide variety of people in the development, planning, administering, and facilitating of the conference. A diverse group of professionals can model and cultivate a community of participants who all serve as teachers and learners.    Here are some tips for the planning of the conference (see Table 5 for additional information):

  • Involve the participants in developing and running the conference. They become engaged in leadership and learn even before the conference begins! Participants can do a great job at creating a theme, conference structure, designing t-shirts, developing a marketing plan and advertising materials, starting the conference off with facilitating team builders, presenting a program, leading a small group, etc. Participants can do many things to help make the conference great and can learn a lot about leadership by experiencing it.
  • Hold the conference off site if a spot is available to you.  It gets participants away and in a different mindset, shows them a new place, allows them to develop relationships, and they cannot leave as easily during the middle of the conference!
  • Consider making the conference a required retreat/training for some groups of participants to increase attendance. Identify the groups you would like to collaborate with and form a partnership.
  • Allow other participants, faculty, and staff the opportunity to present on a program, facilitate a dialogue, lead an activity, guide a group, etc. Involving a wide variety of active learning experiences from the onset where participants are moving around and engaging with one another sets the tone for engagement in the conference. There are a number of different activities that are easy to facilitate. I will provide examples and resources later in this article.
  • Make sure you allow for adequate time in the conference. The more time the more learning and development. It takes time to develop the group, at least four hours or so. Group development happens formally and informally. A bus ride, a meal, hanging around a fire, playing a game, conversation in the dark while you are dozing off to sleep develops the group just like formal activities. Overnight conferences allow for a lot of the informal group development to happen.
  • Learning occurs from teaching. If students have the opportunity to help facilitate a program or activity, they often times learn a great deal from this experience of teaching. Just as in leadership, the lines blur between leader and follower. At a good conference, the lines will blur between teacher and learner as well.

Key Elements in Leadership Conference and Retreat Design

 

Design element Considerations
Conference planning team How will you recruit a diversity of participants from students to staff to become involved?

How will you involve organizers in learning innovative leadership through planning the conference?

Pre-conference assessment What do participants want to get out of the conference?
Goals/ Outcomes Is it a retreat for a specific organizational division that wants to accomplish something or a general experience for innovative leadership development?

What changes do you want to see in the participants or organization as a result of the retreat?

Target Population How many people will be at the retreat? Do the participants already know one another?
Logistics (e.g., facilities) Are you off your organization site or on?

Are the rooms appropriate for the group size and activities?

Is the set-up of the room conducive for interaction?

Have you planned the food arrangements? Are the audio/visual needs met?

Facilitators and Speakers Will the speakers be from your organization or someone you invite from elsewhere?

Who will the speakers be… staff, participants, executives, faculty, etc.?

Curriculum How will you organize the content, activities, learning and development experiences of the conference?
Execute marketing plan How will you recruit participants to the conference?

Is the conference open to any participant or a targeted group?

Conference Materials What should be included in the conference website, app, binders or folders?

Agenda, information on innovation and leadership, and a conference roster are recommended. Be sure to include an email roster so participants can connect with one another after the conference.

Post-conference evaluation/ participant follow-up What do you want to know from the participants?

Have the participants fill out the evaluation form and make suggestions for improvement as well as identify strengths of the conference and how it affected them.

 

Conference Content Models

One simple way to enhance the coherence of your conference is to base it on a model of innovation, leadership or a leadership theory. Often, leadership conferences try to teach leadership but have no particular theory or model on which they base instruction. This can result in a haphazard selection of skills or ideas that may not connect to one another with coherence. Organizing principles can make the content of your conference connect and give you some direction in determining the different activities and sessions. There are a number of ways you can utilize leadership theory to construct your conference. I will give examples of a number of different models.

Books are very helpful. I’ve developed a simple way of thinking about leadership development that I like to use when breaking down leadership and competencies. You could use a framework like I do that consists of personal and group skills that intersect with skills of action and thinking to form a matrix to categorize leadership. Simply put, every skill of leadership is either internal thinking or external behaving and is done either as an individual or with others. With this framework you could divide your conference into one of two frames, personal and group, or thinking and action.

Using the personal development and group development organization from this model, I will highlight various activities later in this publication that could be categorized in one of those frames. Because this model is basic and foundational, it allows for the organization and integration of different leadership theories or books.

There are quite a few books on leadership an now on innovation. One just needs to browse a bookstore to see this. Specific innovation books are very applicable to participants learning leadership by engaging in an innovation process through a conference setting. One could organize the content of the conference or offer programs based on different sections connected to the model of leadership or innovation the book explains.

Conference Speakers and Facilitators

Often times, conferences are thought of as depending heavily upon the speakers, or faculty, as they are sometimes called. Many may think that development of the conference sometimes primarily involves finding the right speakers. Speakers are important, but there are things that you can do to allow for the group to deliver a lot of the “speaking” as well, be it in group work, discussion, etc.

Many successful conferences do involve keynote speakers or special presenters. Sometimes these presenters are brought in from outside the organization, sometimes they come from within. I may have a unique perspective to share on this issue. I’ve spent the past ten years in developing, coordinating, and facilitating innovation leadership programs at many organizations and universities as well as consulting on the development of leadership conferences for other institutions. Most relevantly, I have been a leadership for innovation speaker for the past decade. My insight from different angles and perspectives may help.

External Speakers

The first thing I would do is look for speakers who have experience with your kind of audience, similar conferences or retreats, or your particular innovation challenge. From the onset, ask what their specialty and audience is. Also, ask what a speaker can provide before and after the speech. Some speakers are very busy and don’t have a lot of time to provide outside of coming to your organization. Others are very interested in helping with the development of the conference or event and are even willing to do what they can afterward to sustain the effort. There is a potential for a better partnership between the speaker and the organization in these cases. Some like to help organizations create leadership conferences/programs, provide marketing ideas, send emails to participants, etc. Often times, an organization can get more from the speaker than they think.

Most speakers aren’t going to know your organization, your participants, or your issues as well as you do. You can help inform the speaker. A speaker generally likes to give their best stuff. They have been refining their speech for years. It is a rare talent to be able to deliver a speech that receives rave reviews and changes lives on a consistent basis. It is hard for a speaker to give up on that to develop something completely new and customized. They know that their speech gets results. The key I feel is the middle ground that incorporates the speaker’s best stuff with your needs. From the onset, be clear about your interest for the speaker to address a particular topic and early on provide information about what is happening at your organization around that issue.

If you are going to bring a speaker in, engage the speaker in helping to develop the topic, event, or even program as a whole as well as ask them to be a part of the whole conference helping with many sessions. Many speakers build their fee around working hard for a full day. For instance, some places have had me help with the development of the conference, do a keynote and closing speech, and present about three programs in between! On the other hand, I’ve also just flown in to talk for 45 minutes. I like to be immersed in the experience from development to evaluation, although speakers vary in their available time and interests in engaging with a specific program.

Internal Speakers

Don’t overlook the resources at your own organization. If you want to save money there may be an individual at your organization who will speak for free. The drawback is that participants often hear the same speaker over and over again, and this person may not have the time to put into creating something customized and complete. Another idea is to connect with good colleagues at other organizations and find out if they have any dynamic leadership speakers who enjoy facilitating activities. It may be exciting for them to come to your conference and be interesting for the participants to hear a different voice. Finally, there may be someone in your community who may be excited about the opportunity to speak to participants but again, may not be in the best position to customize.

The right speaker can create a memorable and life changing moment which will reflect in their future involvement. My life course was set because of a speech a number of years ago. Internal or external to your school, get an amazing speaker if you plan to have large group settings with keynote presentations.

Constructing the Curriculum

Speakers can guide three different types of activities for your conference. Speakers can either be professionals, invited faculty and staff, or participants. The activities can be either personal development or group development focused since the speaker or conference planning team creates them.

Keynote and Closing Speeches (Personal Development)

Speakers can be the focus to begin or end the conference. Speeches are generally done with the whole conference group together. Speeches are generally speaker focused and naturally limiting in their amount of interaction.

Workshops or Programs (Group or Personal Development)

Breakout sessions during the conference can be built into the schedule to allow the speaker to develop a more interactive learning experience for the participants. The speaker can develop something from scratch or you can recommend a topic connected to your theme or guiding book or theory. Workshops tend to be more interactive than speeches while allowing for significant input from the speaker . Workshops are often times done with portions of the conference attendees.

Roundtable Discussions or Dialogues (Group Development)

A speaker can also serve as a facilitator for discussions. A pre-determined topic and some thoughtful questions can be used to get conversation going amongst the students. This activity allows for a lot of student conversation and not as much from the speaker. Students can also gain valuable experience by facilitating topic-specific roundtable discussions.

  1. Significant Conference Projects

Other than partaking in the activities and learning from the programs, the groups should work on a project together. Let the students develop as a group and do something of value to the college community.  This is real leadership.  You can address solving a organization problem.  To provide a few college examples, at a conference planned at the University of Maryland, the problem of isolation/loneliness on campus was confronted.  At a conference at Cardinal Stritch University, the issue of enhancing involvement on campus was addressed. At another conference at Alverno College, the challenge of bringing different groups of students together was investigated.

Before the conference, divide participants into small groups of approximately five to eight people. Select a problem or issue that is important to your organization that groups of participants can work on addressing (i.e., culture of innovation, enhancing customer experience, generating new revenue, strategy for the new year, etc.). Each group could be loosely facilitated by a planning team member. The facilitators can develop the group development activities they would like to do with their groups. Each group can have a pre-determined name tied to the conference theme or the group can come up with their own name/logo/etc. as an opening group development activity.

The first time the group meets, the purpose should be strengthening relationships by getting to know one another and developing a sense of team through activities. The second time the group meets they meet for the purpose of achieving their task. This process involves identifying their problem, brainstorming solutions, selecting their plan and representing it creatively on a collage or canvas. The third time the group meets, they meet for the purpose of presenting what they have done to the other groups.

Materials needed for each group include:

Tag board

Magazines

Markers

Glue sticks

Scissors

Other accessories

Service Project (Group Development)

A group can also perform a small service project at a conference. This offers the opportunity for the group to develop by doing something meaningful together. You may have a community service leader or service learning specialist that can help you select an appropriate project and reflection opportunities. Proper processing of the activity is needed to make the project service learning for leadership development. This was represented earlier in Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning model where reflection was a key piece to make meaning of the experience and actually learn from what has happened and allow for development to take place. Sample questions to process include:

  • Why is what we’ve done important?
  • How did our group engage in the leadership process?
  • How could our group be more effective?
  • How do we see the work we’ve done affecting the community?
  • How did our group come together to do what we needed to do?
  • What style of leadership did we see? Who did what?
  • What was our vision?
  • How did we communicate with one another?

III. Ongoing Conference Activities

provide encouragement and the opportunity to encourage others as well as develop relationships in the group.

A good way to begin the conference is to have each participant in small groups design a bag, envelope, or folder with their name on it that will be posted. This bag can ideally include a photo of the participant with their name. This makes it easy for other participants to identify who is who. People can also design their bag with magic marker, magazine clippings, etc. Each person can discuss their design in the group and the bags can be posted in a public area. Throughout the conference, participants are provided with small pieces of paper and encouraged to write notes to one another. Participants bring their bags home and open them at the conclusion of the conference. It is a positive feeling for the participant to open their bag at the completion of the conference to see many notes of encouragement from new friends. I personally have kept and occasionally reflect upon the bags and notes I have received from conferences years ago. They still serve as a reminder of the people, the experience, and the learning. This is a popular activity at many retreats and conferences.

Leadership Development Journal (Personal Development)

Reflection plays an important role in leadership development. Each participant can receive a notebook from the conference staff or a mini-journal made out of construction paper folded in half and stapled with paper inside. The purpose of this notebook is to serve as a leadership development journal. Connecting the material being presented to personal experience is an important part to leadership development and learning. Participants can each design the cover of their journal much like the bags of encouragement. The cover can represent unique aspects to the individual. It can serve as an icebreaker where each person pastes some symbols or words from magazines that represent them. They share these with the group. After this initial icebreaker the participants can begin journaling and journal throughout the conference experience making notes of thoughts, ideas, “aha” moments, and action they would like to take.

 

Pair Introductions

Each person should pair up with someone that they don’t know. The purpose of the activity is to spend 5 minutes talking to someone and getting as much information about them as you can. People can find out from one another names, where they are from, their role, where they live, activities they are involved in, why they came to the innovation conference, favorite music, favorite food, etc. After the high powered conversation each person will introduce their partner to the group. This activity is an excellent way to allow participants the experience of a one-to-one conversation and also lets each participant be introduced to the group. As a result, everyone in the group knows a bit about everyone and each student has made a connection with one other participant.

 

Best Group Experience (Group Development)

This is a good group development activity to use in small groups when the groups are first forming. Each person thinks about the best group that they have ever had. They each take a few minutes to reflect on their favorite group experience and identify what it was about that group experience that made it so special to them. Each person shares a bit about their group and why it was so great. After each individual shares, the facilitator asks the group what themes emerged. What things did multiple people’s best group experiences have in common. This activity gives the participants an opportunity to co-create a vision that this group is going to be great.

Making “Leadership for Innovation” Meaning (Personal Development)

The goal of this activity is

to help participants begin thinking about innovation in an intentional way and formulate their own meaning. This activity allows participants to explore what innovation (or leadership) means to them and to be able to communicate that to others through words and pictures. Through this activity participants will see that different people think of leadership in different ways and that the concept is not easily and universally comprehended.

Give each person some paper and markers or crayons. The purpose of this activity is for each participant to draw what leadership for innovation is like for them. This drawing could be a metaphor or some kind of symbolic representation. On one side of the paper the participants can identify a number of words that describe leadership. From there it may be easier to produce a drawing that represents leadership symbolically or metaphorically. In small groups, participants can discuss the words that describe leadership. They can also explain their drawing to others, connecting the words to the picture. After this activity, the participants can post their drawings on the wall for a leadership art gallery that represents a diversity of ways of looking at leadership for innovation.

  1. Later Conference Activities

Personal Vision for Action (Personal Development)

Each individual should develop a vision for something they would like to accomplish as an individual. I’ve developed a worksheet that I like to use when I facilitate this activity. The purpose is to develop a vision, goals connected to that vision and then ultimately an action plan for achieving the goals and realizing the vision the participant has created. See the resources section of this publication for the worksheet.

Group Vision for Action (Group Development)

It would be a great thing if the group could continue even after the conference is completed! A final meeting offers the group that worked together earlier during the conference the opportunity to say goodbye. During this final time the group also determines its role after the conference. Ideally, the group would be sustained by taking action towards the solution to the problem it worked on together. The group determines a vision for how it will operate once the conference will end. Perhaps the group will determine a time to get together or determine a plan for action. The worksheet in the resources section may also be helpful in developing the vision, goals, and action plan for the group.

 

Assessment

Various qualitative methods such as interviews or reflection papers or various other writing assignments provide valuable information on the impact of the conference. Since the conference intervention is short term, qualitative assessments throughout the conferences may prove to be valuable to enhance the experience. A needs assessment, asking participants what they’d like to get out of the conference even before the conference begins can improve the way you implement. An assessment midway through the conference, for instance asking participant to write down what has been going well and an idea for improvement, can enhance the way you facilitate and clear-up any confusing areas. A final assessment of the same nature can also prove valuable for future conference improvement. All of these qualitative assessments require little effort other than reading the suggestions and figuring out how to implement them.

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