We instinctively, as humans, look backwards for answers into the world that has gone before – even as we peer forward into our futures; searching for familiar, ‘normal’, tried-and-tested patterns – as we plot and plan cautiously ahead.

Everything we have created and become; even the very framework of our business – stems from a historical viewpoint. Take the initial development of business – which, when it replaced agriculture and came to dominate our current landscape – was also based on another old historical reference; the military. It’s why today we still have ‘companies’ of people, with ‘strategy’, ‘tactics’ ‘hierarchies’, ‘command & control’ and war rooms’. We created businesses by looking back and replicating the military because we had no other reference point to choose from.

Interestingly now, as rigid business hierarchies are being challenged and the typical business model confronted more and more by modern organisations who are looking, effectively, to ‘demilitarize’ their organisations, we are starting to see a new and more successful reference for wining modern businesses based on other (more humanitarian) collaboration and community structures…

Now take conferencing – a more recent manifestation of modern activity – but one which also originated from a backward looking reference. Religion; from any church, synagogue or mosque – which lines up people together in a concentrated manner, face them forwards towards a raised podium and preach to them from on high – while exhorting them on to bigger, better and more things! It doesn’t take much to transpose the company meeting into a quasi-religious session in your mind… instead of the ‘good book’ just think ‘death by PowerPoint’ and you’ve got it in your head.(This may also conveniently explain why people who ‘preach’ or read their stuff to you elicit the natural human response of you falling asleep! After all, you were trained to do that as a child when your parents read to you for that very reason).

If you want a successful event today, it’s time to break out of this backward thinking. The very fabric of human learning and development is wrapped into the art of telling stories not preaching in Sunday School. From fairy tales through to urban legends, the messaging we on-board most as people is that which we can see and relate to ourselves and our situations and this has been the case over centuries of human development. Have the confidence to create magnificent stories… it’s edutainment we crave, not a lecture!

Building a better conference today is about creating a connection not a barrier with your audience. Seating patterns, agenda lengths, networking and refreshment breaks, the internal company presenters and even the professional speakers you use must be briefed to create and deliver compelling stories. Discussion groups must be conversational. Short compelling interesting information must be brought out. All of this woven into a walk-away message which is carefully crafted in advance of the event.

More than ever today, as a full time professional speaker, most of the events I’m invited to are formulaic and outdated and won’t achieve a successful outcome.  As an outside speaker I’m often tasked with uplifting the entire event; and whilst I can deliver great keynotes – shouldn’t this be the case with every speaker on the programme? It’s not hard to do. It just requires careful judicious thought and forward planning from the outset, not to replicate the tried and tested, but to push the boundaries and develop new modes of expression to lead to creating a measurable and defined outcome. Ask me how; I’m bloody passionate about this!