Friday, 18 September 2009

the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 may not have existed in 2004.

Making information systems work for you
The Impact of Meetings on Adult Education
Author: Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP
From ' The Meeting Professional ', January 2008

Gone are the days when a college education meant you were set for life—much of what college students learn today at the start of their educations is obsolete by the time they graduate.

Educator Karl Fisch sums up the challenge: “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented yet, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

According to former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 may not have existed in 2004.

Consequently, continuing education is an increasingly important need for adults. We all are challenged to simply keep up with the constant advance in business practices, and we must be regularly updated in order to stay competitive in our jobs.

This is where events come in. Corporate and association educational sessions and networking are very important methods of adult education—they are major ways to share knowledge and to help us all keep up in our careers.

However, the advances in technology are very much changing the way we receive this education at meetings. Here are some of the ways that this is playing out.

Information is Cheap, the Value is in Wisdom
We are awash in information. It is estimated that a week’s worth of The New York Times contains more information than a person in the 18th century was likely to come across in a lifetime. There are billions of uniquely addressable Web pages indexed on Google. We need help to make sense of it all.

Meetings are a place where we can learn from speakers and, as importantly, from each other as we sort out these challenges. Speakers who are regurgitating data will fade in influence, replaced by those who can sort out the important stuff and deliver it effectively.

Decreasing PowerPoint Tolerance
“Death by PowerPoint” is the joke commonly heard at many meetings. PowerPoint is likely the most misused of any computer software.

However, when used properly, computer visuals can increase retention and assist in learning. The challenge to presenters, and meeting planners working with non-professional speakers, will be to insist on using this technology effectively with increasingly sophisticated audiences. Page after page of text just won’t cut it. Whereas, pictures, simple graphs and key words to emphasize points (when used judiciously) will assist in the learning process.

Talking Heads Stop Making Sense
There are times when a speaker with good delivery skills can capture an audience, keep them on the edge of their seats and succinctly present relevant information in a manner that will have significant impact.

However, attendees with increasingly sophisticated demands for custom learning online will not tolerate speakers who fail to be engaging and are unable to deliver the message effectively.

Audience Participation
One of the best ways of engaging people is through audience participation. The collective wisdom in a room almost always exceeds that of an individual, including a speaker.

Web 2.0 technologies are allowing us to have our voices heard on blogs, online videos, social Web sites, online user ratings of hotels and sellers and more. We increasingly expect to have our voices heard online, and this will carry over to meetings. Audience participation will be increasingly demanded of speakers and meeting planners from savvy attendees who want their say and realize the value of the wisdom of the group.

An example of how this may play out is Web-based audience polling designed for mobile devices provided by VisionTree ( In the not-too-distant future, people will be able to vote on issues at a meeting quickly, accurately, anonymously (everyone gets an equal say) and at no cost by simply pulling out their Web-enabled phones.

Remotes Merge with Face Time
Advancing video/webconference technologies and novel new forms of connection, such as Second Life (, are enabling people to meet globally with a few mouse-clicks. These technologies will work their ways into face-to-face meetings.

As evidenced in recent U.S. presidential debates where questions were selected from YouTube ( videos, these simple and reliable new ways of participation will increasingly be used in events. Additionally, advances in high-definition television and telepresence technologies as being developed by Cisco ( and other will improve the videoconference experience at meetings.

Technology-enabled Networking
Much of the learning at meetings occurs in the hallways during coffee breaks, receptions and other non-seminar events. We learn from each other through networking. The challenge is that the principal means of networking (the name badge) has been relatively unchanged in the last 40 years.

Although name badges work, there are many improved means becoming available. Web-based networking tools and proprietary networking tools, such as SpotMe ( and nTAG (, are adding much better ways of finding people of like interests at events. On the horizon, mobile phone technologies using rich Web-browsing capabilities such as those found with iPhone and OpenMoko, combined with social networking and geo-positioning tools, will provide enhanced networking functionality in the hands of everyone carrying a mobile phone.

Take the Conference Home with You
As much as we may wish it were otherwise, we can only be in one place at a time—making it very difficult to attend multiple tracks at large conferences. Fortunately, the technology to merge recorded conference audio with speaker slides, video and searchable transcripts of the event has advanced greatly over the past few years. Companies such as Conference Archives (, Essential Event Technologies (, Total Conference Recall (, Content Management Corp. (, Mira Digital Publishing ( and Altus ( provide rich-media copies of presentations online so interested parties can pick up missed sessions. Attendees can review sessions and those unable to attend can remotely experience and learn from a conference.

Conference recording technologies will extend the life of a meeting and have a significant benefit to adult learning in our fast-changing world.

Meetings in general will remain central in the options for adult education in the industrialized world. Technology will help to make meetings more accessible and help significantly in the learning process for attendees.

CORBIN BALL, CMP, CSP, is a professional speaker and consultant focusing on meetings technology. He can be contacted via

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