How Do You Feel About The Commoditization Of Event Production?

day 357 - as seen on tv

I love a cloned conference!

Don’t you?

Jeff Rodgers of Zap Creative has launched The Meetings Department that offers a plug and play template for your next meeting. Starting at $5,000, you purchase a cloned conference experience with a minute-by-minute show flow, script for general sessions and awards, walk-in and walk-out music and videos to use that have won Telly Awards.

[Update 6/23/11 : Please make sure you read Jeff Rodgers comments at the end of this post. Jeff clarifies what the Meetings Department is exactly and how it works. My perception of a cloned meeting experience missed the mark here. It’s not what I originally thought.]

I can’t wait to experience one of these mass-produced, one-size-fits-all conference experiences!

How about you?

What Does A Cloned Conference Provide To Me An Attendee?

I know what to expect at every moment.

I know who is going to be there.

I know who is going to speak every minute…emcee, CEO, emcee, sponsor, emcee, speaker, emcee, board member, emcee sponsor, etc.. Rinse and repeat.

I know when they are going to play music in the general session.

I know when they will show a video.

I know when the general session will get boring.

I know when they have substituted new music or videos.

I know how long each section will last.

I know what’s next.

It all feels like Déjà vu.

It’s predictable.

I can even predict what the emcee, CEO or Board Chair is going to say and when it happens.

I can take out my checklist and timeline, and follow along with the event producers.

It’s common, status quo, average, ordinary, plain, the same ole same ole.

It’s safe.

What If?

What if every movie followed the same predictable script? What if every TV drama used the same template? What if every novel followed the same storyline stencil?

What if every human had the same experience all the time? What if every restaurant served the same food? What if every day, we had the same meal that we had at that time yesterday?

What if every small to mid-sized conference bought an event template from this company so they could do their event better? Wouldn’t that be just peachy?

Smart, Savvy Company

I salute this organization that is taking advantage of people’s lack of time, creativity and innovativon. I don’t fault them one bit for capitalizing on a need for selling a product.

Reminds me of pet rocks and mood rings? The fast selling fads of the time.

Is this template the best product available? Doubt it. Can you find a free template online? Probably.

Will it work? Sure for those wanting a cloned experience.

How do I really feel about it?

In my opinion if meeting professionals can’t create their own unique experiences for attendees that don’t follow the same tried-and true outdated last year’s template, then we have a bigger problem.

How do you feel about template productions that have very few creative turns and twists? Does this plug and play template sound like something your organization would purchase?

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  1. Pat Ahaesy says:

    This sounds quite similar to a couple of companies years ago who specialized in opening modules. They had huge libraries of these.& were quite successful.

  2. Melissa Reisinger says:

    First of all, great commentary as usual Jeff. I don’t see that most associations have an extra $5,000 to spend on a canned conference. Why pay for something that you can probably get for FREE. If they do have the extra cash lying around, they should use it to pay their meeting planners a living wage.

  3. ExpoQueenUSA (twitter) says:

    I “think” I hear through your sarcasm loud and clear Jeff. Although an event “template” for planning a successful event can be used over and over again…I believe it is the content, the experience, and the “WOW” factor that must change each year if you are going to keep attendees interested and excited to come back again. A good event committee should challenge themselves with the task of creating a new, memorable, or innovative event experience that will be the talk of their industry and make those who did not attend crave to be there next year! Unfortunately we still have so far to come and so many events doing what they have always done just because they are afraid of stepping outside of their comfort zone. They are missing the chance to lead and grow…instead of follow and die a long slow death. Such a shame…

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Yep, it does sound like that same process. Except the template actually includes the script of what to say, when to say it and how to say it. Thanks for reading and commenting too.

      Totally agree with you. If they have extra money to spend it to pay their meeting planner a living wage. Thanks for reading.

      Do you like to watch movies that have difference content but have the same predictable template/pattern? I don’t. Predictability usually does not lead to that WOW experience that you discuss. That’s why so many conferences have the exact same format, the planners just use last year’s schedule as a template.

      I like what you said that we do need to have new, memorable and innovative event experiences. Thanks for reading and commenting too.

  4. Melissa Reisinger says:

    Jeff, I really look forward to seeing you and meeting you in person on Friday, June 17. I will be at the CalSAE event at Hyatt in Sacramento.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for reading and see you soon.

      I’m with you running screaming NOOOOOOOOO! Thanks for adding your insights to the conversations.

      Got it. I totally agree that a checklist would make a lot of sense and most of us would use it. The template this company provides is much more extensive and scripted.

      Thanks for clarifiying!

  5. Joan Eisenstodt says:

    Is this something new? No really .. aren’t many organizations just taking what they did before (including the budget) and tweaking just a tiny bit for “this” year’s conference? Maybe the words will be better in these templates and all you have to do is insert the names of the organization, people, etc.

    This scares me:
    1) For the jobs of those who create meetings.
    2) Those of us who are trying so hard to make changes in what is set/done/spoken/delivered/viewed.
    3) Critical thinking skills that will go away.
    4) As a participant who will be B-O-R-E-D if it’s always the same. Why bother?

    Quick story: Years ago, we dropped a client after a number of years of being able to take their program, put it on tracing paper, and hold the years 1 on top of the other, and see NO differences save a change of venue.

    I am running off screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

  6. ExpoQueenUSA (twitter) says:

    Thanks for the response Jeff. I would like to clarify that when I think of a “template” I am thinking of a check list to make sure I don’t drop the ball on anything critical when planning an event. However, the format – content – delivery – and environment we create for any event should be continuously evolving…in search for the WOW factor!

    No…I do not like going to the movies and predicting the story line or ending. I LOVE a surprise, twist, or unexpected off the wall climax that leaves me breathless! Those are the kind of movies (or events) I would tell my friends about!

    Thanks again – Michelle (aka: ExpoQueenUSA)

  7. Jeff Rogers says:

    Hello Jeff- It’s me Satan, otherwise known as Jeff Rogers of ZAP Creative.
    I thought I should respond to your blog as it seems the product I created in The Meeting Department has been severely misinterpreted and I wanted to clarify a few things. I apologize for the length of my response but I ask you and your readers for an honest opportunity to represent my product as I share their passion for this industry and for creativity. 1st and most importantly: There are no scripts. No pre-written speeches. No content is included at all with the exception of an opening video. I don’t advertise pre-written presenter content as part of the offering on my site and it didn’t actually say that in the article.

    The Meeting Department is not the meeting clone machine that it is made out to be. It is a production vehicle that includes a themed opening video (two of the options are Telly Award winning videos), themed PPT templates, and templates for pre/post event communication. This is a vessel that needs to be filled by the purchaser with the content that is relevant to their meeting. We all use templates on a daily basis for everything from baking a cake to creating a blog*. Templates expedite a process but it is the ingredients or content that makes all the difference. *(I notice that Velvet Chainsaw uses a themed wordpress template from Headway Themes for their blog.)

    There is also a workbook with checklists to keep track of the myriad elements that go into a meeting. Perhaps the “Minute-by-Minute” show flow checklist made people think everything is programmed down to the milli-second. This is incorrect. The show flow is a template to be filled in by the owner with the presenters and content appearing at their meeting and allow the meeting planner to, hopefully, keep the meeting on time.

    You made a reference to watching the same movie over and over to illustrate your point on how boring that would become. I agree. However, I have seen Hamlet numerous times and while the same script was used, each performance was completely different. (That said, let me re-iterate, we do not supply the presenter’s scripts with our offering and no comparison to the bard is implied.)

    My point is that we are not trying to commoditize meetings. We are trying to democratize meeting production and make it affordable to those groups, associations, and corporate meetings that cannot afford these elements. In this way, we hope that we are educating potential groups and exposing them to the opportunities that exist when an investment of more time, money, or understanding around the benefits and ROI of a meeting can be fully realized.

    @Pat- You are correct that this is not a new concept. Given the economy, it seemed like the right time to bring it back.

    @Melissa- Hopefully, purchasing an award winning video, a theme, ppt graphics and more for $5000 will create a savings that could also be used towards the Planner’s salary. I have a cost comparison chart on that compares what each of these elements would cost individually.

    @ExpoQueen- I agree with you as well. However, our target market is smaller meetings with a less experienced event committee or a corporate admin tasked with putting together a meeting that exceeds their knowledge base or expertise. Also, your idea of a template is exactly what we offer in our packages- a checklist of things to consider or keep track of for an event. (By no means comprehensive but hopefully we cover the necessities.)

    @Joan- I hope I have made my case that this is not quite a cookie cutter approach.

    If you are still reading this ridiculously long post- Thank you for your patience and the opportunity to respond.

    Jeff Rogers

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for responding here and clarifying the product/service you are offering. I stand corrected and my perception of The Meeting Department is obviously off the mark. I’m very grateful that you took the time to explain exactly what you have and how it works. Thankfully it’s not a cloned conference or meetings experience!

      Thanks again Jeff and here’s to your success with The Meeting Department.

  8. Thanks, @Jeff Rogers for providing more insights and input about the product.

    And I wonder still if it’s a bit like giving someone a hotel contract template and telling them to fill in the blanks – they just put in words and don’t really know the objectives and purpose and meaning behind what they’ve done.

    I’m all for helping people make meetings look better; I’m more for them learning the hows and whys of the tools they use.


  9. Jeff Rogers says:

    ‘@Jeff Hurt- Thanks for letting me post and taking a second look at the Meeting Department with fresh eyes. That takes a lot of integrity. I really appreciate the work you do and I’m looking forward to working together in the future.

    @Joan-I agree. Hopefully, The Meeting Department will help bridge that gap between learning the tools exist and learning how to use them.

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