The idea of conferencing isn’t new, but is probably enjoying its most popular period ever. However, as a conference speaker at over 180 events a year around the world, I’m horrified by the wasted expenditure I see in over 95% of most conferences and events.
It isn’t good enough anymore to pile people in darkened rooms and preach down at them with amateur speakers droning on and on. Every wondered why church attendances are at their lowest ever? It’s the same at conferences – and preaching doesn’t convert many people in this day and age. Interestingly, evangelical church attendances are booming and in answer to the eternal question ‘why’ it’s because they’ve reconfigured the whole process and made their ‘events’ a load more interesting and stimulating.
It doesn’t take much to change an average conference into a spectacular event; just a little careful judicious thought, planning and action.
Better agendas with appropriate modern timing where networking breaks are actually of a length where people can get in and out of a darkened venue, back into the light, and actually are able to visit the plumbing, have a coffee, have a chat and check their social media.
Better prepared and better all-round speakers – where the event managers and conference planners who use the real professionals – not the wannabe’s or never-will-be speakers – who’ve been briefed and can deliver, meaningfully, against the conference or event theme; long with professional eMCees who can actually drive the event forward properly.
Better session, or speaker slot, lengths where instead of the usual droned-through 45 minute slots, the speakers have crisp and to the point delivery which matches the expectations of both the event organizers and the audience.
Better food and drinks – not the usual carbo-load of muffins, biscuits and stale coffee, but healthier, stimulating snacks and refreshments that actually encourage wakefulness instead of inducing delegate drowsiness.
Better conversational opportunities outside of the networking breaks, through the use of dialogue techniques with the audience such as on-the-couch Q&A or one-on-one interview sessions with the (usually boring) internal presenters, can make all the difference.
Better engagement opportunities with the audience beyond the usual and dull app, which is usually done for the sake of it, into meaningful video, slide and onward dialogue opportunities both pre and post the actual days themselves.
Conferencing and eventing needs to be dragged into to the 21st century. Audiences are bored, fatigued and don’t expect a great deal. They’ve usually seen and heard it all before. Yet the 5 out of every 100 conferences I’m privileged to either speak at or attend are altogether a different experience. Engagement, interest and belief all need to be created and planned in – it simply doesn’t just happen by itself any more. The proof? Try going back to church this coming Sunday… or can’t you be bothered?