After nearly 3 000 conference days I’ve attended around the world to date as a professional speaker, I’m sorry to say that most events are ‘same-old, same-old’ in the manner in which we line delegates up, schoolroom style in a darkened room, for a data-dump of note. It’s no wonder conferencing is no longer producing real and tangible results. I’m now asking conference organizers, at my pre-event brief 6 key questions which so far, has generated from almost 100% of the folks questioned – 6 ‘Yes’ answers.

Here they are (and what follows is how to change all this):

  1. Do you believe that conference, and delegate, fatigue is a real phenomenon?
  2. Do your delegates usually fill up the back rows of your event first?
  3. Is it usually a ‘Death by PowerPoint’ type of affair?
  4. Is the event full of internal speakers, who have bad slides?
  5. Is it hard to get people to remember, carry home or implement the message?
  6. Does your sum total of Return on Investment end with merely lowering the banners and adding up the bar bill?

Well; this has to stop. Let’s face it – as much as business has it origins deep in the military (after all that was the only reference point in the early 1760’s when the Industrial Revolution began – and helps explain why we have ‘companies’, ‘strategies’, ‘tactics’ and ‘war rooms’); conferencing seems similarly to have emerged from within the framework of the religious world. Let me unpack that for you. We have a darkened room (church, mosque or synagogue), where the audience (congregation) are lined up facing forwards (schoolroom style) to listen to the sermon (PowerPoint presentation) delivered by a Rabbi/Priest/Imam (internal company presenter) from behind a raised altar (podium) – who’s preaching (presenting) from the Good Book (laptop). Get my drift? And we’ve been doing all this since time immemorial.

It explains why delegate/conference fatigue is real.

It isn’t fun, dammit! It’s why delegates fill up from the back rows first. No-one wants to be caught like rabbits in the headlights from the first few rows from which escape is impossible. At least from the back rows you can twiddle on your mobile/sneak out for a smoke/fall asleep undisturbed when the room goes dark, straight after the new corporate video kicks off the day.

Monologue ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is dull, tedious and impossible to absorb, especially when delivered by an amateur presenter, and worse still… when it’s read from notes! (Remember your parents used to read to you as a child – but at least they expected you to fall asleep!)

Internal company presenters usually prepare their presentations from brochures and other historical decks (at the last minute) and pack them with charts, graphs and images that actually belong in a brochure; not on a screen.

It’s why no-one ever remembers the message. Sure some take hastily scribbled notes, or grab a cellphone image, but those are soon lost/discarded/deleted when the big return to work happens and the real world kicks in!

It’s why conferencing ROI is a phrase not often used – as the means to recording the depth or content of the messaging is usually impossible to verify.

Until now.

It’s time to build better conferences.

To overcome fatigue we need to re-imagine eventing.

To consider the conferencing life-cylce of pre-post-during the actual event and to radically create something fresh and exciting which can be measurable.

To create interactive spaces and seating which counteract the ‘back-row’ syndrome.

To plan and execute awesome, shorter, agendas with better networking break opportunities and with better trained and coached presenters and to interview on stage those who don’t have the time or ability to learn new presentation skills – using trained interviewers and interview techniques that gets the best out of internal folks.

To package content and messaging better; not just in shorter and more focused PowerPoint sessions, but into meaningful information such as infographics which can be positioned (and useage measured) as takeaways electronically. To create short video clips for post-conference use (privately or publicly via social media sites such as YouTube) (*See how easy and inexpensive, yet effective, this is by watching my short Conference TV video below)

All of this, and much much more should become the new standard in eventing and conferencing. So far, since chatting about all of these elements and implementing them with my clients, everyone is loving the benefits – but most importantly so are all my delegates.

* Watch this video! Conference TV explained