The 2012 London Olympics were an interesting diversion from U.S. politics, the scorching heat and a questionable economy.
They captivated our attention as we rooted for our countries, the underdog and individuals that had overcome great odds.
Even when an athlete from another part of the world broke some amazing record, we united with our support and awe. Their win was the water cooler discussion in the office and the buzz of Twitter.
Being More Olympic-like
So why aren’t conference general sessions more like the Olympics?
Why can’t the opening general session unite the crowd around a message, an issue, hope, beating the odds or some other unifying feature? Why can’t it set a tone for what is to come next in the conference experience?
Why can’t general sessions bring a crowd to their feet as the unanimously cheer for the underdog regardless of their home country or personal beliefs? Why can’t conference organizers put as much attention to how the audience will respond to the opening general session as they do to hand-holding and coddling their sponsors?
There Is An I In Team
The Olympic athletes prove there is an I in team!
They come prepared to compete. They spend long lonely hours fine-tuning their skill. They work hard at staying fit as they master their field. They keep their eye on the goal as they build muscle memory and self-confidence.
Sometimes that “I” is what puts them over the top and raises them to a new world-breaking level. Sometimes that “I”–the fortitude, drive, passion and intention–brings them back from defeat and humiliation.
World class athletes perform for 10 seconds, 60 seconds, maybe even a few minutes. Yet they spend countless hours working out, running sprints, torturing their body, practicing steps, training their muscles, eating the right foods, and doing one more weight-lifting set even when their competition and colleagues call it a day.
Why Audiences Connect With Olympians
Audiences connect with Olympic athletes because we too have those lonely efforts and long hours of work where we keep going without a team cheering us. Many of us spend countless hours making our bodies and brains come into submission as we work hard to perfect our craft without our track-suit coaches shouting from the sidelines.
We rethink our strategies and plans as we feel “good enough” is just not “good enough.” We find ways to improve some process or procedure.
We put the “I” back into our employer teams.
Conference Organizers Need To Be More Like Olympic Athletes
Too many conference organizers think that the key to a successful general session is hiring the right speaker and then planning is done. Too many meeting professionals think that sending the speaker backup information about the organization and audience will lead to a great audience experience. It’s way more than that!
Very few organizations pursue the gold medal audience experience of the opening general session. They leave it to chance.
Very few dedicate their passion and time to crafting something that will move an industry forward. Very few take a personal drive to try harder, risk failure and strive when no one is looking, especially when it comes to the general session.
It’s time for conference professionals to put the “I” back in team so the general session crowd unites, stands to their feet and walks away with an emotional experience that changes their future. It’s time to dedicate more hours to perfecting that opening general session experience.
Why do so many organization leaders think that general sessions and conference breakouts only require securing a speaker and that’s it? Why don’t conference organizers commit more time to crafting a unique opening general session that resonates with the majority of the audience and brings them together?