The active-learning conference – a space for asking questions

At our conference events, we have always strived to offer something different and something valuable to everyone that attends.

Over the years, we have refined the style of our conferences to encourage active learning – an instructional method of delivering information that engages the audience in a learning process. It changes the nature of our conference from being mostly reactive learning to proactive participation, which has been shown to be much more effective.

One of the markers of active learning is the asking of questions and it is precisely this that set our most recent conference in Carlisle apart from many others.

In Carlisle we had our biggest conference audience to date, who spent the day learning from and engaging with our speaker line up and other family businesses in the room. Although the ticket sales was a good measure of success, we were heartened by the glowing feedback from our speakers who paid testament to our team for bringing together a focused event for the sector that covered such a broad range of topics.

The audience demographic was predominately family businesses (who made up 80% of the room) with the remaining delegates spanning a mix of professionals from across the North West, who play an active role working with and supporting family business owners.

What made this year’s conference noticeably different however, wasn’t the subject areas that were covered but the level of engagement received from our audience.

Questions were coming thick and fast from all corners of the room, creating an energetic yet relaxed atmosphere. For the speakers and presenters, it made for a somewhat unusual two-way dialogue. The speakers enjoyed the reactions that the audience’s questions provoked, and it enabled everyone in the room to gain a personal insight into the thoughts of other family businesses around them.

Change and development in any family business starts with a question and the more we ask, the more we discover. It helps us identify and solve problems and come up with new ideas and fresh opportunities.

Our thirst for asking questions and the opportunities or circumstances to do so naturally diminish as we get older; with it, so do the opportunities for our learning and development.

At our conference events, not only do we create a space for asking questions (there is no good and bad question or right and wrong answer), we also try to gently confront some of the more ‘taboo’ questions and topics, from retirement to ‘letting go’.

In Carlisle, we were encouraged to see a real appetite for asking questions from within family businesses, as well as a thirst for knowledge.

This is something we hope to see in all of our conference events going forward and where we, as The Family Business Network with the support of our network partners, can help family businesses to find the answers.