4 Tips Your Conference Can Learn From Oprah Winfrey

Last Episode of Oprah

Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to her raving fans recently after 4,560 shows.

Her last episode generated more than 18 million viewers. (Nielson Ratings)  Few public figures have received such extraordinary exit ratings.

Amazingly, Oprah stopped while she was ahead.

Creating Raving Fans And Extraordinary Success

How did she do it? What made her successful? What can we learn from her profound accomplishments? How can you create such raving fans and success?

Inc’s Eric Markowitz highlights several important business lessons from Oprah’s remarkable success.

Here’s my spin on four of those lessons as applied to conference and event organizers.

1. Give back to your conference participants.

Oprah planned everything she did with the viewer in mind. She was constantly asking, “Will our viewers care about this? Are they interested in this? Do they want to know this?”

She also gave back. One of her highest rated shows was “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” She gave away digital cameras, smartphones, iPads, and cars to her viewers. She constantly shared her success with her followers.

Lesson to learn: Giving an unexpected surprise to your conference participants can create loyalty. Plan everything you do with the conference participant in mind.

2.  Take risks and garner attention.

Oprah was not afraid to take risks. She interviewed neo-Nazis, murderers and child molesters. She went to small towns to discuss AIDS, discrimination, environmental issues and war. Her ability to cover controversial issues often got national attention.

Lesson to learn: Take some risks and invite some controversial speakers. Allow for honest, authentic debate about sensitive topics on your conference stage.

3. Reveal your personal story.

Oprah never hid her personal life from her fans. She was authentic and transparent. She asked the tough questions. She revealed personal struggles and misfortunes.

Lesson to learn: Not every conference host or organizer needs to reveal their life’s melodramas. However, the conference’s head leader needs to be transparent, humble and authentic. This leads to trust from the conference participants.

4. Become an influencer.

Oprah’s book club is known for selling books and launching authors. It was the perfect storm of reading and discussing an author’s writings. Fans were buying books in huge numbers and talking about them in coffee shops, grocery lines, kitchens and at soccer games. At the heart of it all was Oprah’s desire to be a teacher, a leader and a motivator.

Lesson to learn: Topics and speakers that you highlight at your conference should have an emotional connection to your audience as well as a message worth hearing. Once the topic is presented, take the time to let the conference participants discuss, debrief and dissect it.

What are some other business lessons you’ve learned from Oprah’s success? What has Oprah taught you about branding, creating raving fans and planning with the participant in mind?

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  1. I loved oprahs final episode, she was very authentic. I cried! She has always been a powerful person who has a lot of integrity.
    So I would echo authenticity and integrity

  2. […] 4 Tips Your Conference Can Learn From Oprah Winfrey Jeff Hurt gives meeting planners four lessons they can learn from Oprah. Think about your conference materials… How can meeting planners obtain extraordinary success through their conference notebooks? […]

  3. Point 2; takes risks is something that clients are afraid of. However, in a way you can ‘manage’ them by giving the chairman of the conference a clear briefing: ‘at the end of the day, these 3 ‘scary’ questions need to be answered. A pro will be able to succeed. Also inviting the most critical journalist as a speaker can be very refreshing!

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