14 Conference [Planning] Afflictions To Avoid

Image by EddieB55

Just like highway accidents. You know you shouldn’t but you do it anyway. You are drawn to slow down, look and watch.

Highways have Looky-Loos and most conferences have rubberneckers. Those attendees that watch others’ misfortune unveil and then play them over and over in slow motion as they discuss them with colleagues…

Except for one glaring difference…

Conference rubberneckers invest money in registration fees, travel, lodging, expenses, time and energy to attend. These paying customers go to learn, network and do business. More than spectators in a bad experience, they are players in the misfortune conference game. And they have every right to gawk and discuss negative experiences, especially when it harms their personal experience.

14 Conference Planning Afflictions To Avoid And Keep Looky-Loos At Bay.

1. Conferencably Late

(pronounced kon-fer-ens-a-bul-lee lat)

Not to be confused with fashionably late where the elitist and famous arrive belatedly to the party. Mass entrance of conference attendees 10-, 15- and even up to 30-minutes after the general session has officially begun as attendees know how predictable and boring the initial self-promo and political offerings will be. Antonym massodus. 

2. Double Dippin’ Conference Style

(pronounced dub-el dip-n kon-fer-ens stahyl)

When conference organizers charge attendees a registration fee and charge sponsors a fee to showcase their speakers or messages. It also applies when attendees pay to attend and also are required to pay to consume archived content.The conference organizers are making money from both stakeholders for the same experience. Not to be confused with “Double Dippin’ Doggie-Style” when organization leaders showcase their bad pet tricks on stage as talking heads. See pimpntants for more information.

3. DVRavenings

(pronounced D-V-ra-v-an-ings; also known as TiVoNow)

What most conference attendees experience when they want to fast forward a conference general session past the self-promotion, political fluff, sponsor videos and talking heads.

Gensesvy: Conference Napoleon Syndrome Image by @heylovedc

4. Gensesvy

(pronounced gen-ses’-vee; origin General Session Envy; also known as Megachurch Syndrome)

Envy of large conference, shows and megachurches that are able to plan and produce huge general sessions that motivate, inspire and move thousands of people at once and have everyone talking in the hallways.

Note: Those that produce large general sessions could take some points from the “Big Box Churches” often called Disney Churches or Six Flags Over Faith. These megachurches use a seeker-friendly approach, intensive market research, heavy reliance upon opinion polls, polished advertising, unconventional styles and current trendy influences. Their worship service design is not left to political infighting of staff and board members.

5. Homosessuals

(pronounced ho-mo-sess-shoo-els)

What most conference organizers plan for each year – people who want the identical conference content and experience and attend homogeneous education sessions year after year.

6. Listenrance

(pronounced lis’-uhn-rans)

Simlar to the drug-induced trance that many ravers experience. When conference attendees are lured to purchase registration fees in exchange for an onsite dream-like stupor by listening to talking heads at all education sessions. Often conference attendees are sold snake-oil that listening or auditory-learning is their preferred learning style and that’s why this conference model works best.

Mass exit image by - EMR -

7. Massodus

(pronounced mass-o’-dus)

Mass exodus of attendees from general sessions before they are officially finished. Often occurs within the first twenty to thirty minutes because of poor quality, content and speakers.

8. Minimalessence

(pronounced min-ei-mal-es-ens)

Mindset to keep all venue public spaces absent of seating and informal networking areas. It is based on the belief that large open lobbies and pre-convene areas look better if great herds can move through them several times a day. (Haven’t we learned anything yet from Southwest’s cattle herding for flights? They still provide informal seating areas clumped together!)

9. Pageantical

(pronounced paj-ent-i-kel)

The misbelief that all conference attendees want to sit through, and enjoy, the pageantry and politics of seeing every organization’s award winner walk the stage, make a brief Academy Award acceptance speech, receive their award and stand for pictures. Unless the attendee personally knows the award recipient, it is meaningless and boring. Same applies to industry certification recipients parading across the stage one by one! There are better ways to provide both recipients their 15-minutes of fame and the attendees a great experience. Both groups deserve the best.

10. Panelroid

(pronounced pan-el-roid)

Amping-up education sessions with not just one talking head, but two, three, four, five and heaven forbid, six talking head panelists because of the belief it will multiply the attendees’ experience. This should be illegal!

New Pimpntant Conference Attire so others know you've been pimped! Image by _nash.

11. Pimpntants

(pronounced pimp-n-tants’)

Registered and paying attendees who are pimped by the organization for the highest paying sponsors in exchange for broadcasting messages and/or serving their own speakers. Often occurs when large associations pimp general session speakers at the expense of an attendees’ experience.

12. Stagedium

(pronounced staj-de-em)

Paying large fees to livestream content from conference sessions and limiting speakers to a 4′ x 8′ stage complete with oversized lighting. TV talk shows and televangelists learned a long time ago how to film a speaker or host going into the audience without overbearing lights. This is not rocket science.

13. Vertitendee

(pronounced  verti’-ten-dee)

Fear of giving attendees, the customers, too much say in how the conference is designed because a lack and loss of control will cause conference vertigo.

14. Yappeteasers

(pronounced yap-e-te-srs)

Free bar snack consumed by young professionals to hold them over until the next sponsored meal. Frequent cause of conference indigestion.

 What conference planning afflictions would you add to the list?

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  2. L. Leonard says:

    Also avoid “Overcleveraged” – Trying too hard to be clever, hip and edgy at an event, or doing so in a way that is disjointed from/conflicts with your dominant brand, identity, or values. Frequently results in mass discomfort and embarassment.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      It was a pleasure to meet you onsite. You leave some big thought shoes to fill and follow. Thanks for paving the way!

      @L. Leonard
      Thanks for reading and adding to the list of conference afflictions. I love “overcleveraged.” Good one. Anyone else have some to add?

  3. Mickie Rops says:

    Great list Jeff!

    Surfacitis (pronounced sur-fa-si-tis) – the pain inflicted upon learners when every session just barely touches the surface of the subject.

  4. Mickie Rops says:

    General Sessercial – A commercial or series of commercials disguised as a general session.

    Learnlusion – The illusion that learning has occurred simply because information has been presented.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      You’re on a roll! We’ll have to start another list…maybe our own Urban Jungle Slang Dictionary of conference terms! Love it. 8)

  5. Outta timenus: Asking attendees to hold all questions until the end, then running out of time for Q&A.

    Intro noncessation: Introductions of panelists that take up half the session because the fact that they’re very important is worth more than what they have to say.

    Might rushmore: Scheduling five minutes to get from breakouts on one side of the convention center to general sessions on the other side.

    Escalatojam: A condition of escalator gridlock that often coincides with Might rushmore.

    Lockjaw: Constrictions in conversation when attendees are asked to form small groups for discussion and the chairs are locked together in rows.

    OK, I’ll stop now!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Love these! We’ve all dealt with escalatomaj and lockjaw. Thanks for adding them.

  6. Brogan Rounds says:

    Really informative blog.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

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