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At long last, the conference of the future

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Sensory acuity

Besides D-BOX movies, aircraft cockpits, video games, and perhaps the vibrating alert you get when your mobile phone is in silent mode, haptic devices have been slow to work their way into the mainstream.

Regardless of how and when the COVID-19 situation resolves, cost constraints are likely to keep traveling to meetings and conferences well below pre-crisis levels. This presents an opportunity to review all the sensory inputs and outputs exchanged in physical presence, along with benefits and detriments, and also find ways to enlist technology and practices to greatly enhance the virtual experience by using sense of touch, and perhaps even taste and smell, in addition to sight and sound.

At the very least, we should be looking for ways to produce sharper images and greater sound fidelity to the point at which we’ll be able to read nonverbal and other weak signals that are usually only discernable up close and personal. The emergence of 5G, with its expected 100x bandwidth improvement over current networks, along with full-immersion 3-D, should help bring the high-definition experience to a new level that makes sights and sounds more real and less digital.

Reifying the next-generation conference

As you participate in conferences in the future, consider the following questions. Have you built and maintained a personal
knowledgebase? Have your friends and colleagues? Do you share at least some of the contents? Be sure to make use of the technologies in the exhibit hall, especially the growing number of graph database and knowledge graph platforms. These are ideal not only for building knowledge spaces, but also for matching them to adjacent personal and organizational knowledge spaces, mediated and enabled by the virtual conference, including its knowledge-rich network of attendees and underlying, enabling infrastructure.

For example, in a knowledge café, participants wander from table to table. This stimulates the cross-fertilization of insights and ideas. In our annual KMWorld conference Mentoring Morning knowledge café sessions, we start with a simple mind map, with the main topic in the center, and six main branches labeled: 1) questions, 2) challenges/frustrations, 3) horror stories, 4) success stories 5) insights/solutions, and 6) other. After three completed sessions, the consolidated mind map is shared with all of the participants.

Why not expand this practice to an entire conference? With a few key enhancements, we can make our virtual conference experience as close to a continuous knowledge café as you can get.

Here’s a bonus tip: A virtual conference presents the opportunity to create a personalized environment far more enriching than the four barren walls of the typical windowless meeting room or exhibit hall. Why not try attending this year’s KMWorld conference sitting on your front porch or balcony, a nearby park, or better yet, a hot tub or Jacuzzi?

With so-called digital transformation being the rage du jour, perhaps it’s time to embrace a new type of transformation, something along the lines of “making it real again,” or “getting back to nature.” Now that we’ve been forced into a more virtual world, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be making the most of it.

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