It’s simple to understand. We need to look at where the origins of the event industry emerged from; and strangely the answer lies in religion and all from around the mid-1800’s.
Let’s look back at business first. Think late 1700’s and the origins of work as the Industrial Revolution began. Prior to this time there had only been an agricultural based economy largely orientated around barter and simplicity. As we grew more humans on the planet surface, and life got a bit more complicated – we began the concept of business; and the only reference point for that was the military. There was nothing else to base business upon… Which is why we have ‘companies’ – itself a military term, along with strategy, tactics, war-rooms and the like. Let’s face it; command and control typical corporate hierarchies are all based purely on the military style of management.
Then – around the middle of the 1800’s as companies got bigger and needed to share their stories internally, the conference was created. The only reference point for that? Church. The synagogue. A mosque.
A simple enough model to follow – it seemed easy enough to replicate (and it was what we all knew); pile people into a darkened room, preach to them from on high, from the good book, in a monologue fashion and now you can leap straight into the modern era and think; that’s just like a typical conference today. Sure, we replaced the pulpit with a podium and the ‘good book’ with PowerPoint, but it’s the same old – same old all too often, isn’t it?
Why do people sleep in their place of religion? Because mostly (apart from the charismatic churches for which you might as well think ‘motivational speaker’ by the way) – it’s all become oh so boring.
I believe that in recent times, when I began my speaking career over 15 years ago, this explains why I was often called in as a professional speaker and asked to ‘just do the graveyard slot’. Conferencing needs to drag itself into the modern arena – and I’m not referring here to the charismatic style of religion (I believe that so-called motivation is snake oil; it teaches ostriches that they can fly on a Friday afternoon and then sees them walk to work on a Monday, because… they’re ostriches!)
What today’s conferences need to offer is more opportunity for dialogue, not plain monologue, where the audiences become involved and not just preached at. Better speakers who deliver on point, precisely and concisely. Longer networking breaks in terms of agenda planning (people can’t eat, network and catch up with the office on a 20 minute break dammit!) A better overall experience is long overdue across the entire experience…
Thankfully, I’ve seen some conferences get better over the years – but I still see too many of the old, boring type too. It makes sense today to use professional conference organizers, as well as professional speakers. It also makes a ton of sense to train up internal presenters to deliver better. To think experience and involvement in every facet of the proceedings, in order to achieve results.
A conference needs to be seen as the start of a business process – where the theme and content becomes valuable, usually and affects the future, as opposed to the old-fashioned view which said after you’ve lowered the banners, added up the bar bill and sent the delegates home, that that was the ‘be all and end all’ of the exercise.
Thankfully, as a professional speaker today, with a pre-brief with the client and the internal conference team I’m usually able to assist in thinking along these new lines. After all, that’s my job. To uplift an entire event and not just in a 45 minute keynote, and after over 2 500 events in some 40’odd countries…. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the very ugly!
Want to know more about better conference results from pre-planning? Contact me at Michael@theothermichaeljackson.com I’ll be keen to share my thoughts and to add some value to the entire event.