I cannot remember the last truly great conference I have been to. The conferences I see are invariable formulaic, seldom interesting and too long. I want drama, pearls of wisdom, to hear success stories from people who understand my world. I want engagement and genuine interaction: something a little more off script.
As I have given up a day’s work to come to your conference I (the delegates) want something back in return. We have come to learn – not to eat nice food and network! Alas at most conferences you can predict what is going to be said and by whom. There needs to be more game changing moments. You heard it here first. Alternatively, save me the time and send me the highlights video.
So what’s to be done about it!
Assuming all the usual conference event planning stages have been completed the key to a successful conference has to be getting the programme right – what the delegates are going to see, listen to, take part in and learn. Actually in my opinion it is the ONLY reason to sign up to a conference. I am NOT there for the free food, the company or to network. They are nice to have but not essential. The purpose of the conference programme must be to change the people in the room. Equip them to deal with a problem, help them come round to your way of thinking.
So I think the programme should flow from one thing to another with occasional breaks for people to catch their breath.
The art of great conference programming
In general terms conference planners need to be braver, more creative and offer something less sanitised and more challenging. The programme has of course got to be designed solely with the audience in mind and nothing else. What is in it for them? Each programme item must past the relevance, impact and supports the programme objective test. No padding, irrelevant corporate speeches (you know the ones – aren’t we just great…really!) and over long breaks.
As with all events you will have done your research and found out what is troubling your delegates, and therefore what they want to know. You will want to create a programme that is a journey: it will have highs and lows, be challenging, varied in delivery medium, full of stories, be visually appealing and will have a hefty dose of audience participation.
The need for really good speakers
There will be speakers at every conference. Picking good ones is key to a achieving a well received and evaluated programme. Ideally you would only put speakers on your stage that have genuine stage presence. They open their mouths and people listen…attentively.. Their speeches’ focus is on helping the audience learn something valuable. They should also be making the audience feel truly involved. I don’t mean some sort of carefully managed Q and A session. I mean full audience participation!
The role of Conference Moderators
You could also hire a conference moderator to make sure the programme remains on message, insightful and engaging. If you are not familiar with the moderators’ role, it typically encompasses such things as introducing the speakers and acting as an MC. More importantly they will run unscripted Q and A sessions – asking the questions the audience want to know. They are also tasked with ensuring the programmes key messages are delivered, understood and taken home by the audience. In essence they know the clients’ business well enough to openly ask intelligent questions – that get to the heart of the matter. They will listen to a presentation and highlight the key points and ask presenters to reiterate a point, if it’s not clear. They are often involved right at the early stages of the programmes development. They are a lot more than a Link Presenter: a reader of scripts and autocues.
They are part of the conference team, not so wrapped up in saying the right thing but doing the right thing: making sure your conference is memorable for all the right reasons.
Can I recommend a good Conference Moderator: yes I can his name is Roy Sheppard
Those of you familiar with my blog will know that I rarely recommend anyone however I making an exception in this case – why because conference, seminar, meeting planners to be brave. These types of events must now be engaging, exciting and learning environments. In short, a truly valuable and uplifting experience. So if I can help recommend somebody I know and trust I will.
Please check out his website www.RoySpeaks.com and Linked In profile www.linkedin.com/profile/view?trk=tab_pro&id=231033. He has an impressive client list and a long list of testimonials!
What do you think? Tell me I am wrong or agree with me.
If you want to know how to deliver the perfect conference or any kind of corporate event please do drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 01256 335192, or check out my event training and 121 coaching packages. I have been doing this a long time and just might be able to help you plan successful events.