It’s time for conference organizers to mix it up and do things differently.
I am so bored with the traditional conference format: opening general session in theater setting, followed by breakouts in theater or rounds, followed by lunch, followed by breakouts in theater or rounds, followed by reception or party.
Really? Is that the best we can do? Do meeting professionals and conference organizers lack creativity?
The Year Of The Attendee
Who in the conference host organization is fighting for the rights of the paying attendee?
Who is reminding the leadership, “Is this in the best interest of our attendees? Will this serve our attendees better? Is this the best we have to give our paying customers? Why are we putting efficiency above paid registrant’s learning and experience? Are we saying we would rather be more efficient than effective?”
Shift your thinking and make decisions that are in the best interest of the paying customer!
The Most Overused, Overheard, Stupid Excuses
Whenever I challenge a meeting professional to mix things up and change room formats, I normally get one or more of these excuses:
1. We can’t change the room format because of sessions before and after it.
Hogwash! You can change anything you want. Don’t let traditional room sets dictate innovation and learning. You are creating the standard, boring, cookie-cutter conference. Get a grip.
If it’s in the best interest in the attendee, demand it!
Yes, professional associations, it’s time for you to get out of the business of telling speakers why it can’t be done and do it! I am sick and tired of hearing your excuses.
As a meeting professional, I mixed things up for years. We even changed a large ballroom six times in 36 hours! If I can do it, you can too!
2. Changing room sets will cost us money.
Tip: When negotiating the venue contract, remove any room change fees. Get a statement in the contract that there will not be charges for room change fees. Typically, room changes that occur at night do not cost anything.
3. We’ve always done it this way.
Exactly the reason you need to do it differently! You have become stale, outdated, status quo, average.
Who wants to pay to attend an average conference, with average speakers, with average education offerings, with been-there-done-that-overused, traditional room sets?
4. Our attendees expect it.
Yep, your traditional theater room set tells your attendees that they can expect to check out mentally and blend in with the crowd. It kills excitement, energy and innovation.
Here’s the real excuse:
We are too lazy to create something different. It’s easier to replicate last year’s model and do it the same way every year.
Take the Four-Box Learning Mode Test
To break out of your either/or thinking, take a look at this conference learning format diagram.
Write each of your conference education sessions into the appropriate quadrant.
Are there too many formal, group sessions?
If so, think about how you can break it up so there is both informal and formal group settings. And how can you provide individual formal and informal learning opportunities too.
What are some tips you’ve learned the hard way when mixing up conference learning formats? What are some of the excuses you’ve heard about why the room can’t be arranged differently?