Status-Quo Is A No Go! Become A Conference Outlaw

Skullslinger by Huck Gee

All progress takes place in the outlaw area. ~ paraphrase Buckminster Fuller.

You can’t improve and reform your conferences where you currently are. You have to take some risks. You have to move away from doing things the way you’ve always done them.

You can’t make improvements to your attendees’ conference experience by playing it safe. As Fueller says, all improvement is in the outlaw area.

It’s time for you to become a conference outlaw! The most promising ideas are often on the fringe, not in the middle.

Depart from tradition and become a conference outlaw and lead your conference stakeholders to change, freshness and new ideas!

Average Is Not Your Best

Average conferences are planned by average meeting professionals.

To keep things easy and efficient, most conference organizers replicate last year’s schedule. They prepare the conference experience hastily with intent on checking off tasks. Even their planning has become mundane and repetitive.

We spend little time thinking about creating a new attendee experience. We aim for expediency, efficiency and average at best. We are satisfied with being ordinary and average.

During the conference, many conference staff oscillate between being bored, indifferent and hostile. They have stopped seeing attendees as people and instead see them as an obligation to deal with and a nuisance.

Attendees respond to this average experience by defaulting to their mobile devices to create a virtual cocoon. They find little of value in the traditional conference experience so they stay glued to those that offer more excitement and energy via their thumbs.

They don’t expect friendliness, relevancy or timeliness anymore from the conference. That way they don’t have dashed expectations. They expect nothing more than average.

We know from our own experiences that the meeting planners rule. They take great pleasure in enforcing small rules–stay behind the stanchions, if you leave education no credits for you, you can only have one cup of coffee during breaks, and more. Conference life is more about sameness than variety. New ideas and new behaviors are greeted with suspicion.

When attendees expect nothing, then receiving nothing is ok. But when they experience something different and realize that there is more, less is disappointing!

Become An Outlaw

The inspiration for new experiences can be found all around us. Yet it requires a profound change in the way we think. Our conference compartmentalized thinking needs to shift to a more holistic view.

Instead of thinking about general sessions, breaks, concurrents, meals and evening events, we need to think about the behaviors and attitudes we wish to generate in our attendees. We have to think about systems and how the experiences we design integrate with the needs of our attendees.

It’s time to take bold steps away from the traditional conference and go where conference organizers have not gone before. Go ahead. Be a conference outlaw! The rewards are waiting.

What are some ways conference organizers can create fresh new attendee experiences? How can you tell if the conference organizer has visited the outlaw area?

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  1. Yes please, more outlaws, more risk-takers, more shaker-uppers. Maybe not to infinity and beyond, let’s take small steps where we can, and giant leaps where it will improve the attendee experience, including learning retention and positive emotions generated through relevant events that build relationships and connections, one conversation at a time. Not one “talking to” at a time, just sayin’! It’s lucky I live in the west, wearing that silly outlaw hat, I am going to blend in and change this town one meeting at a time!

  2. Viv McWaters says:

    Spot on! I’ve just returned from attending a perfectly acceptable conference. Yet it was somewhat boring, predictable and a lost opportunity. Just a few tweaks to the design (which ofc is different to logistics!), and yes, a few risks, could have made this event a stand-out conference instead of just another ho-hum experience.

  3. Lee says:

    I like how The Lift Conference both researches, shares and looks to improve its format to the point of developing materials for people who run workshops at their conference

    You might not agree with all the content but they are looking to step change the format away from the ppt/ppt then panel/panel death march

  4. […] Jeff Hurt urges us to aspire to be conference outlaws. […]

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