Your current conference planning and improvement procedures have its roots in industrial revolution models.
We are still designing our conference in the exact same way that companies designed their manufacturing production process, to paraphrase Dave Gray author of The Connected Company. We are trying to imitate the industrial age to make our conference networking, programming and experiences faster and better.
I suspect that your conference decision makers have very little solid knowledge about context beyond what they deliver. They think they speak for what’s going on in their customers’ minds. They feel they know the motivation and larger purpose of their target customers.
Self-Centered Conference Progress
Most conference hosts and planning teams spend very little effort and time understanding their target markets, their target exhibitors and their target sponsors.
A conference planning strategy was put in place a long time ago. And it continues to work. Or at least the planning team thinks it still works.
The strategy and process for planning and implementing the conference seems to be a foregone conclusion. And the team continues to focus on and feed that conference planning grind.
They have no idea that their conference planning train is actually on the wrong track!
I submit that your team continues to supply its conference creative planning process with data and metrics about how things currently work. They focus on the outputs that they have always used: number of registrants, amount of sponsorship, amount of exhibitor revenue, expenses, etc.
The teams’ efforts are focused directly on the things they deliver through conferences. Everyone is busy explaining how each other’s perspective works—their tasks, their definitions and their methods.
Our conference planning teams are so busy with tactics and archaic outdated procedures that they forget to look beyond their own activities. Their focus is on working together to present its solutions. They want to present those solutions to their executives, their board, their supervisors.
And these solutions are based on single loop problem solving methods.
They are so busy focused on inputs and outputs established decades ago that they don’t realize they’ve spent zero time understanding and listening to their target market. They don’t realize that the world has shifted. As have their customers.
Moving Beyond The Surface
A continuous conference improvement plan requires pivoting away from a direction that has not provided the expected returns. Even when we tout those returns as success.
It requires taking time to look beyond the horizon of what’s currently in place.
It requires taking time to listen and understand target markets.
It requires going deeper than the current assumptions and opinions. It requires reframing problems, asking new questions about planning behaviors and getting past the industrial revolution mindset.
It requires an empathic mindset.
Understanding what’s going on in your conference target market’s mind is the first step to counterbalancing the current fascination of conference data and old school perspectives. It’s the first step to equilibrium with empathy.
Empathy will play a role in rebalancing your organizaiton’s clarity of purpose in the post-industrial, post-digital frontier of the creative age, says Indi Young in Practical Empathy.
Be a conference organizer who pauses more often to listen and understand.
What stands in the way of moving to post-industrial models of planning and implementing our conferences? How can we encourage more curiosity in our conference planning and design experiences?