What Dr. Seuss, Horton The Elephant, Oprah And Conferences Have In Common

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“We are here. We are here. We are here,” cried the Whos of Who-ville.

“Boil that dust speck! Boil that dust speck! Boil! Boil! Boil!” chanted the Wickersham brothers.

Horton The Elephant

Most people know the story of Horton the Elephant. Horton hears a small speck of dust talking to him. Amazingly, that small speck of dust is a tiny planet called Who-ville, home to the Whos. Horton can’t see the Whos but can hear them because of his big ears. The Whos ask Horton to help protect them from harm.

Horton agrees and proclaims, “Even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

The jungle animals ridcule and cage Horton for talking to a dust speck. Some decide to boil the dust speck. Horton asks the Whos to band together to make their voices heard or risk death.

It’s A Seussian Conference

The past few weeks have felt like a surrealistic version of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who. During that time, I’ve attended and spoke at five different conferences.

During one pre-conference call with six others, an association staff member said, “Remember, this conference is the Chair’s meeting. It’s all about her. It’s her conference. She is the focus.”

I was dumbfounded. It felt surreal.

The conference was for the Chair of the Board of Directors? It was her meeting? What about the paying attendees? Was I the crazy one carrying a dust speck thinking that the conference belonged to the attendees?

In one fail swoop, this association employee discounted all of the conference stakeholders. This mindset that the conference belonged to the Chair was evident by all of the staff of this department.

As an attendee of the conference, I felt like the Whos of Who-ville screaming, “We are here! We are here! We are here!”

What About The Viewers?

Recently, I watched “Season 25: Oprah Behind The Scenes.” Each episode of “Season 25″ shares the back story of the farewell season of Oprah.

During each episode’s planning process, Oprah repeatedly says, “What about the viewers? I am here to represent the viewer. So as a viewer, what does that mean to me?”

That struck a chord with me.

Whenever a topic is presented or discussed, Oprah goes to her core conviction, “What about the viewers?”

During the pre-conference call I mentioned earlier, one of the participants, kept saying, “We need to think about this from the viewer’s point of view. What’s best for the viewer?”

What About The Attendee?

I submit that more conference organizers and association staff should adopt Oprah’s views.

They should say, “I am here to represent the conference attendee. What about the attendee? Does this room setup best suit the attendee? Does this conference speaker think about her presentation from the point of view of the attendee?”

And in the words of Big Kangaroo “And, from now on, you know what I’m planning to do? From now on, I’m going to protect them with you!”

What can you do as a conference organizer to help others remember, the conference is for the attendees? How can we help protect the conference and its content so it’s the best for the attendee?

Comments

  1. says

    Yeah! We should always remember it is about attendees, our customers, and those we serve thanks for the good post. Horton Hears a Who was one of my FAVORITE books from childhood!

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Catherine
      You got it! Regardless if it’s a conference, presentation or business, it really is about the attendees, the customers! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. says

    Ooo, ooo! I know the answer. Always ask yourself, “How would my bottom feel if it was me sitting in the really stiff, slimly padded ballroom chair for 2 hours?”
    Would it be numb and achy? Or would I not feel it at all because I was so engrossed in the message coming from stage?

    There’s your litmus. It’s all about the bootie.

    Or, better yet, take the cue from EventCamp Twin Cities and get some exercise balls and couches ;)

    Great post, I love this book.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Midori
      I love your thinking with this! Conference organziers need to ask the booty question: How would my bottom feel if it were sitting in this chair for two hours?” Thank you for reading, commenting and adding to this discussion.

  3. says

    Great post, I really love Midori’s response. It’s always about the bootie line. If you were able to put yourself in the conference go-er’s seat, then you would be more conscious of the content you had, and the way you presented it.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Betsy
      I agree, Midori’s response was right on target. Can you imagine conference organizers asking, “How’s our bootie time doing?” Ha!

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