I understand what is going on in most annual conference committees: personal agendas, conference schedule deadlines, speaker favorites, leaders seeking control, volunteers posturing for their own ideas and power.
What I struggle to comprehend is what isn’t going on.
What Isn’t Happening
It seems to me that annual conference committee volunteers should be serving the organization’s whole customer base. That includes potential customers and non-customers as well.
But I don’t see the annual conference committee paying any attention to the ordinary Jane or Joe customer. Or those that have been in the industry more than 10 years and whom the burden of economic instability is unjustly falling. Or the young professionals who, except for techies, see a gloomy future.
I don’t see the annual conference committee strategically identifying major industry issues and mapping conference content to them. Or focusing on those that are struggling with best practices that fit a specific historical time and that are now out of context. Or allowing those that want to ask others how they navigated rough waters successfully and instead insisting that they must sit quietly in sessions.
What about them?
None of the battles over which speaker or topic is better for the conference will actually touch them, except to make their experience even worse.
That doesn’t strike me as wise or adequate leadership.
Isn’t It Time?
Annual conference committee members, isn’t it time that you get to know your organization’s audience better?
Isn’t it time for you to put aside your personal preferences and think about what’s in the best interest of Jane and Joe Conference Participant?
Isn’t it time for you to step off of your self-made pedestal and admit that you do not understand good presentation skills, adult learning techniques and what audiences want from their speakers?
Isn’t it time to speak up and acknowledge that you don’t know what qualifies for a good education session?
Isn’t it time for your choices to undergo the scrutiny of tough evaluations and whether your decisions attracted new markets?
Isn’t it time for you to say that all you know is what you personally like and that probably doesn’t resonate with the majority of our conference participants?
The World Evolved. Did You?
Annual conference committee (and conference organizer), the world around you has changed. Unfortunately, you have not changed with it.
You have clung to old ways long after they have stopped working. Betting the farm on the way your conference has always run. Using the same schedule every year instead of diversifying your conference offerings. Looking inward at your own personal tastes and not seeing the needs and problems outside of your realm. Fighting over personal favorites that really don’t matter to most conference participants anyway.
We could think about those shortcomings. But the shortcomings aren’t the issue.
The process is broke and needs to change. We need to realize that our one- or two-year term on this committee is actually a hindrance to the conference success. We need to acknowledge what we don’t know and let experts do their job! We need to start advising about big picture issues and get out of the conference content planning business!
Don’t you think?
What would you tell the volunteers of the annual conference committee today? What do we need to change to transition from the old industrial revolution thinking of completing tasks to a twenty-first century thinking of a strategic approach?