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Legal Ideas Worth Spreading

In keeping with last week’s theme about online disruption, I thought I would recycle another CLE blogger’s post about legal content on TED. TED offers countless lessons for professional development people. From the optimum length of a presentation to the value of hybrid events, TED has single-handedly transformed audience expectations about conferences and learning.

Having trouble making the connection with lawyers and legal content? Check out this great list of Top 10 Legal TED Talks from Tim Baran at www.legalproductivity.com. Front runners on my “must-see” list are Let’s Simplify Legal Jargon, Why Eyewitnesses Get it Wrong, and How I Beat a Patent Troll.

For more first-hand experiences about the scourge that is patent trolls, check out The Real Toll of Patent Trolls, in the December issue of Inc. magazine. Shocking stuff, and probably very interesting real world content for an IP for non-IP lawyers CLE.

In the interim, bring on the TED videos. Can you say DIY CPD? Hoo ya!

Note: Logo/image for this post and “Ideas Worth Spreading” tagline obviously owned by TED.

Online Innovators Disrupting CPD?

The ABA released its usual “Websites Lawyers Love” list earlier this spring. The list highlights author picks from the “60 Sites in 60 Seconds” session of the annual ABA TechShow. Included among the “More Websites..” follow-up is free online course provider Coursera.

Another sign that CLE may be ripe for disruption? I think so. Looks like lawyers may be starting to catch up with the online revolution that’s sweeping the education industry. Check out Websites Lawyers Love here and More Websites Lawyers Love here, and Coursera here.

Are Live Conferences Dead?

Today’s CPD providers are working harder than ever to make live conferences relevant to lawyers. But working harder doesn’t always mean working smarter. As more and more content becomes available online, some providers worry that the reasons lawyers attend live conferences are disappearing. This is silly. In-person programs will always have an audience. Lawyers attend in-person conferences for the same reasons they always have – to make connections and receive relevant information in context.

Live conferences are actually much better positioned to provide these two outcomes than are alternative delivery models. Unfortunately some providers aren’t very good at creating and promoting meaningful onsite interactions, so lawyers aren’t always prepared to pay for them. So how can you produce more interactive conferences? Here are three easy to implement suggestions:

1. Leverage surveying, voting, and social media before, during and after the conference to find out what your audience wants to learn, track learning as it happens, discover what is and isn’t working, and make improvements.

2. Add facilitators (versus same-old, same-old lecturers) as presenters. Conference attendees want to share as well as learn, from and with legal and other subject-matter experts, and from and with each other. Bring hallway learning into your education sessions.

3. Use education and networking sessions to create meaningful connections and help attendees build relationships. Create smaller, more intimate opportunities for knowledge transfer and just plain having fun. Think first time attendees meet-and-greet, or solo and small firm issues break-out.

Advances in technology and affordability have left some face-to-face conferences fighting for relevance. This has more to do with what those conferences offer than it does with the health of the conference market. The future of live conferences will belong to those who see the value of these events through the lens of attendees: meaningful content that invites interactivity, and creates opportunities for networking and relationship building. Providers who ignore these motivators will be pushed out.

Three Legal Conference Trends for 2013

Legal conferences have come of age in the last few years, offering more attendee-driven experiences. Three trends will continue to shape this transformation in 2013:

Democratization of content. The days of providers pushing content out to lawyers are numbered. Lawyers are sophisticated, discerning producers (as well as consumers) of professional development – they know what they want and how they want it delivered. Subject matter experts may still be leading the front of room discussion, but the content experts are in the audience. Social media tools provide countless ways for attendees to define content – from making topic suggestions to choosing speakers to communicating satisfaction levels. Transparency is critical.

How lawyers learn is as important as what they learn. Relevant content is only part of the reason lawyers attend conferences. As information becomes more and more available via the internet, the value of content is decreasing. How content is communicated and received is equally if not more important than the content itself. Today’s lawyers expect conferences to create meaningful face-to-face and digital shared learning and knowledge transfer opportunities, and to keep the learning going long after the face-to-face event ends. A successful conference is the beginning, not the end.

Creating personal, memorable experiences. Smart providers are ditching the tired plenary sessions, rubber chicken dinners, and stale networking breaks. A lot of players are competing for lawyers’ face time, and the ones who get it will be those creating memorable learning and social events that engage attendees in personal and emotionally intense ways. Whether it’s unscripted TED-like presenters or facilitating altruistic achievement, watch for novel ways for attendees to come together, share common interests, and grow. Providers who dare to wow will win lawyers’ affections as the enabler of those life experiences.

Want to keep lawyers coming back to your annual conference?  Work harder to give them meaningful connections  – with knowledge, people, places and emotions. If you don’t, your competitors will.