This is the first of a couple of posts on conferences which have been prompted by my attending quite a few recently – three in the last two weeks to be precise.

This first post has been in part inspired by a great post and discussion by Craig Taylor who highlighted the fact that a recent event he attended a speaker felt delegates couldn’t be learning effectively if they were typing away at the same time as listening – Craig was taking notes on his ipad.

A similar theme was picked up at this week’s World of Learning conference at which Mike Morrison (aka RapidBi) was pulled up by a speaker for tweeting sessions – that despite the fact the organisers were very keen for people to tweet.

This reminded me of some live blogging I did at a CIPD conference a few years ago where people who were sat around me and my colleagues were huffing because of the sound of us typing – that I can understand as we should have been given a table at the front of the auditorium.

All this got me thinking. I spent a lot of my time at World of Learning tweeting (a lot of the time sat next to Mike – pictured). Tweeting during a session really helps me engage with what is being said plus I get challenged in the Twitter stream if I tweet something that makes no sense or sounds wrong. I also get in to conversations that outlast the actual conference session. This engagement around the conference session reinforces my learning.

Plus I am creating content from the sessions that can be shared, which has a value to me and others potentially.

And this is a good thing, as Hermann Ebbinghaus describes in his Forgetting Curve, we forget a lot of what we learn very soon after we first heard/learned it – 50% in a matter of days. For Ebbinghaus it was nearly 70% in the first 24 hours after information acquisition.

It is repetition and reinforcement that helps us push information deeper into our memory and it is exactly this tweeting that helps reinforce what I am hearing and seeing. Add to that the pictures of the slides I might take and the notes/live blogging I might do and you can see how information from a seminar session can be reinforced almost as it is happening.

This being the case, I’d suggest it is high time conference organisers – who are increasingly keen to have their event amplified and engaged with through social channels – enable delegates to use their mobile devices (tablets, laptops, phones) without fear of other delegates and speakers getting a monk on (that’s technical speak).

This would involve redesigning seating plans so that people who wish to use their mobiles can do so easily and without comeback.

This would involve using less traditional methods of delivering conference content – think particpation, unconference formats etc.

This would involve conference speakers encouraging the use of mobiles and encouraging questions fromthe backchannel and indeed engaging with it after the session.

This would be putting delgate needs at the heart of events.

This would involve recasting the idea of what is diruptive. Conferences have been and are being disrupted by technology and it is time they refelcted that fact (I know lots are).