If you are a conference organizer, imagine your job as a museum curator.
Art gallery and museum curators use judgment and a distinguished sense of style to select and arrange art. They juxtapose art pieces against one another to create a narrative, evoke a response and communicate a message.
Conference organizers must approach a conference’s content as a medium that needs to be strategically selected and placed to engage the audience, convey a message and inspire action.
Steps To See Become A Conference Curator
Here are five steps conference organizers can take to upgrade their conference content and experience.
1. Exhibit your conference’s greatest assets.
Museum curators select their best and greatest pieces for exhibit. They often connect with other curators to borrow great pieces from their museums, especially when their permanent collection is lacking.
Their goal is to create a narrative, communicate messages, spur contextual learning and evoke responses.
Too many conference organizers relegate the important task of content and speaker curation to volunteer committees. Imagine for a moment if a museum curator asked volunteers to help select art pieces for an exhibition. Selection of the art would be driven by the committee members’ experience and knowledge. It often becomes an act of the least common denominator as well as a debate among committee members. Individual agendas, perceptions and personal tastes trump what’s best for the conference participant. Without education, time and experience, their selections will never rise to level of expertise of the curators.
2. Juxtaposition content and speakers to create a cohesive theme.
As if hanging art, the conference organizers need to position content with related content to support a thesis.
Whether the content is timely (current issues and industry headlines) or timeless (evergreen issues that are relevant by retaining foundational qualities), conference content curation is about selectively and effectively balancing the schedule-space-time factors to create context. The conference strategist-content-curator wants to create an experience that feels alive, current, relevant and worth discussing.
3. Mass quantity does not equal quality.
Offering a smorgasbord buffet of content does not equal quality. Nor does it support your brand as a curator of a sophisticated refined experience. Restraint, even when political posturing gets in the way, is critical to success.
Frequently curators select the best pieces from their permanent collection that fit contextually within an exhibit. They don’t display the entire permanent collection all the time. They use refined and educated skills to judge and select art.
Curating your call for proposals is similar to a museum professional curating their permanent collection. You can select content and speakers that frame your best assets, emphasize your organization’s voice and communicate a refined sensibility. This helps breathe new life and significance into content that may get lost in the mass.
4. Responsible maintenance is an important principle of good curatorship.
Identifying premium content and topical areas is crucial for getting more people at your event. You want to own the marketplace experience with authoritative and focused content that is more attractive to attendees.
Conference organizers as content-strategist-curators classify content and build relationship between semantic subjects. The content needs to be cross-linked with major themes. It should be dynamically served as integrated experiences with other education that if offered by your organization before, during and after the event.
5. Use analytics to drive content creation.
Analytics will help you manage your content and speakers responsibly so you know where to expand and where to contract.
Museums have tracked traffic through galleries for years. Rarely do conference organizers position staff or volunteers in rooms to track traffic at the beginning of the presentation, 30 minutes after the presentation starts and 15 minutes before it ends. If you want to entice more attendees with conference content, you must examine traffic patterns to find trends on which content and speakers attendees find most interesting.
Unfortunately, analytics don’t show how much your audience enjoys and connects emotionally with the content and speakers. For this reason, a larger investigative effort that balances traffic (behavior) with qualitative user feedback is critical to understand a conference experience that truly hits home.
Which of these steps is directly opposed to your current process for selecting conference content and speakers? Which will be the most challenging to implement for your organization?