If you have agreed to present at a conference or some event over the last year you probably have experienced the issue of the pre-conference training session. This is basically an orientation to things like Zoom, the conference platform, and the various technological issues from the mechanics of asking and managing questions through some platform (that might not be Zoom) and recording sessions.
On top of that, what I am seeing more than ever included in this is a social orientation of sorts that is focused on the use of inclusive language, Land Acknowledgements, advice on how to describe yourself and so on.
Then there are all the presentation issues with using good lighting, framing yourself on the screen, and what to wear. This is translating into anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours of training in advance of a workshop or presentation.
It’s exhausting and a failure of design.
I don’t have any fundamental issues with most of the requirements that these events recommend. Clear presentation, inclusivity, accessibility, and respect are all about good design in my book (nevermind good humanity).
What bothers me is the lack of attention to the system in which we’re designing things into. Instead of adding all of these things to a system that was never designed for them (e.g., a 20-minute presentation + 10 minutes for questions) why not re-imagine the entire thing?
I’ve seen some conferences do this and it’s been pleasantly surprised to see what we can do when we free ourselves from the constraints of having to impose ill-fitting requirements on traditions that were not designed for that. These few examples show you can bring people together to learn in ways that aren’t just virtual versions of traditional formats, but work with where we are today.
Why not design what we want — inclusive, engaging, respectful, and accessible — into a system that has all of this built-in by design?
Inclusive language, accessible technology, and customs are poor fits for systems that were designed to exclude, restrict, and ignore. Without tackling those systems, we’re going to be stuck with 2-3 hours of training aimed at wedging more requirements into formats and contexts that weren’t designed for them and need to change. I don’t know what these new systems are going to look like, but I know we’re losing the point of why we are coming together to learn.
Then again, maybe that wasn’t the point in the first place.
That’s what I’m thinking about today,
Thanks for reading. - Cameron