Leveraging Six Right-Brain Aptitudes For Successful Conferences

Adapted from an image by TangYauHoong.

“The future belongs to a different kind of person,” Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind.

It belongs to “…creative and empathetic right-brain thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.”

Pink claims we are living in a different age. A different time that demands different thinking.

According to Pink, right-brain creative thinking coupled with left-brain logistical reasoning is the great differentiator that separates the wheat from the chaff. 

From The Information Age To The Conceptual Age

The information age required logical thinking and the ability to use technology. Technology took many common routine, repetitive tasks and automated them.

Pink says that the threats and opportunities we face today require high concept and high touch. We have moved from the information age to the conceptual age. Detecting patterns and opportunities, creating creative and emotional experiences, and developing a compelling narrative are keys to success.

Six Aptitudes For Success

Pink identifies “six senses” or right brain aptitudes: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. Mastering them is not sufficient. Leveraging them is imperative if you want to distinguish yourself from others.

I’ve framed my introduction of these aptitudes around the meetings industry and associations. However, their application is universal.

1. Design

To most people design is something interior decorators or fashion designers do. They don’t see it as critical to their success.

However, design is intentional and starts at the beginning of planning. Designing a program’s experience is discussed by staff before the logistics. Well designed conferences create unique experiences that excite the senses, jazz the brain and connect with emotions. It is about more than room sets, speaker proposals and registration forms.

Storytelling by Holtsman.

2. Story

Data, facts, information. It is available online. You can send it via email. Upload a PDF to the web for sharing. Send a report hard copy via snail mail. Research and facts are ubiquitous. Facts alone don’t persuade. Stories do.

We grow up listening to, reading, telling and watching stories. Story sharing is in our blood.

Yet many organizations have marginalized stories.

Developing a compelling narrative increases attention, engagement and memory retention. The best conferences tell an illuminating and persuasive story.

3. Symphony

The information age focused on analysis and specialization. In the conceptual age, synthesis and strategic thinking are critical. It’s about seeing the relationships between relationships.

Anyone can schedule consecutive conference speakers like appointments.

We need professionals that can recognize patterns and connect topics and presentations to the big picture. We need professionals to create a masterful symphony of conference programming.

Image by schaaflicht.

4. Empathy

Meeting and association professionals need more empathy.

It’s time we start putting ourselves in the position of our customers. How do our customers feel about our registration process? What do our volunteer speakers think about the long list of “to do” items due months in advance of their presentations? How do the conference attendees react to the prolonged sponsor announcements in general sessions?

Empathic associations and conference organizers make adjustments based on their customers’ needs, not their staff’s demands.

5. Play

Play, humor and laughter are necessary to the creative process.

We have to get beyond the notion that play and work are two separate entities. That work is to be endured, not enjoyed. That play happens after work. The concept that serious people are more responsible is wrong.

Play and work have more in common than we think!

6. Meaning

It’s hard for associations to rebound from a communal conference experience that goes awry. It can have a devastating impact on the board, committees, customers, stakeholders, staff and volunteers.

Conferences should help participants create meaning and passion. It should be a fulfilling experience. It should make a difference.

Which of Pink’s high-touch talents resonate with you and why? Which are difficult to employ and why?

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