Did you happen to see the following string of tweets started by social media community manager Amber Naslund?
Pointless Bland Conferences
I don’t know which conference Naslund was talking about. It obviously struck a chord with several people. Unfortunately, this is not new to many conference participants.
- Educator Harold Jarche talked about The Conference Rut and how so many feel the same.
- Marketer Oliver Blanchard (The Brand Builder) has talked about Good Versus Pointless Conferences.
- Blanchard’s blog readers responded about Disappointing Conferences.
- Blogger and consultant Mack Collier gave us Five Reasons Why Your Conference Sucks.
- Association Guru Maddie Grant asked if ASAE lost its mojo after a disappointing Annul Conference experience. It struck a chord with hundreds of readers and spurred a string of blog posts some listed here, here and here.
- Engage 365 Community Manager and Omnipress Marketer Chris Uschan recently wrote about how he forgets most of what is shared at a conference two weeks later.
Our conference participants want something different. They don’t want the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, identical conference experience.
Your Camo Conference Experience
Why do people wear camouflage? To blend in. To reduce the fact that someone will notice them. To hide.
When did it become appropriate for our conference experiences to blend in and look just like other conference experiences? When did it become status quo to create bland, tasteless conference experiences that lack spice and flavor? Why do conference organizers plan experiences that are quickly forgotten into obscurity? Why do so many conference experiences feel like they are cut from the same camo fabric?
Adding Contrast To Conference Experience
Think about hunters. Do they wear camouflage? Not unless they want to be shot by their friends. Usually they wear bright safety orange so they stand out in the forest. The goal is to be noticed.
Bike riders wear reflective clothing. Lady Gaga wears unusual outfits that attract attention and clash with normalcy. Highway workers wear neon green and orange to stand out from their environment.
Today’s conference organizers and meeting professionals need to start wearing orange. They need to create conference experiences that metaphorically clash with all other conference experiences.
In order to compete with other conferences, organizers need to plan experiences that offer contrast with the way it’s always been done. The power lies in how much the conference experience stands out from its surroundings.
Yes, as the conference organizer it can feel frightening wearing a bright orange target in your drab organization. Sure, it’s risky. For your conference messages and experiences to stand out from the others, it has to be different. Run to the fear and identify opportunities to create contrast from other conference experiences. Find ways to plan conference experiences that generate fascination and passion.
If not, your conference can be forgotten in a matter of days.
How can we create conference experiences that add contrast to the traditional experience? What have you see that worked in other conferences and stood-out as different?
Sam Smith says
I don’t think that people are trying to create bad conferences and events. I think that they are looking for good ideas and success stories.
In my opinion, the industry needs more innovative people – like you and Velvet Chainsaw Consulting – to start sharing more examples of how you helped events “wear orange”. You guys have been at this for awhile now – I expect that you have dozens of examples of successful and memorable events.
You should start sharing your success stories.
Chris Atkinson says
Great post. Thanks for all the interesting links. To generate those fascinating, passionate and memorable experiences you mention, I think conference organizers and exhibitors need to start thinking more in terms of experiential marketing. They need to be leveraging digital technology to create more interactive and immersive experiences that attendees will value and remember.
A convention marketing agency
How Immersive Convention Marketing is Increasing Marketing Results
Adrian Segar says
Well, the 2010 EventCamps (February, NYC; September, Twin Cities; and the upcoming November, East Coast) are all great examples of what your linkees are asking for.
Each event has a similar target audience—event professionals—but offers a unique approach, shaped by the personalities and interests of the organizers.
EC NYC started the trend – a low cost event run by experienced, passionate volunteers with a rich smorgasbord of innovative sessions.
Next was EC Twin Cities, which expanded the definition of what a hybrid event could be like, coupled with a program where every session took risks.
Coming up: EC East Coast, which will use a radical, participant-driven, intimate approach where the optimal conference program is created by the attendees at the event.
And next year, there’s the National EC in Chicago – I’ll have to leave it to you Jeff to let us know what you guys are cooking up!
Yes, every EventCamp organizer—including you of course, Jeff—is wearing camo (or blue buffalo hats in the case of EC NYC!)
Jeff Hurt says
I agree with you that I don’t think people are trying to intentionally create bad conferences or events. Actually, I think a lot of people are even thinking about the type of experience they are creating. For me, it’s all about goal setting from the start. If you want a unique conference experience, make that a goal. Then hopefully the conference planning team will plan towards that experience.
Great addition to think in terms of experiental marketing! Thanks for adding the free report too.
My camo if neon blue with black and brown. 😉