Bringing The Sexy Back To Conferences [And Conference Planning]

I'll Take Two

If you have ever attended a conference, you know how most of them feel.

They start with a general session, followed by a break, followed by concurrent breakouts, followed by a lunch, followed by exhibits followed by an evening activity. Rinse. Lather. Repeat for a couple more days.

They all feel the same and follow the same status-quo, melancholy, mind-numbing, butt-tiring, ho-hum, nothing-to-tweet-home experience. Most of them suck!

The Need To ReCreate

Some conference organizers try to innovate. They watch other organizers and then duplicate their new, fresh offerings.

There’s nothing wrong with borrowing ideas and concepts from others. However, that new hairdo and trendy outfit is no longer enough if you spend all your time copying others. Instead, you need to create your own conference style. And you need to teach your attendees’ to “expect the unexpected.”

Bringing The Sexy Back

Here are five tips to bring the sexy back to conferences and conference planning.

1. Focus your efforts on creating an attendee experience, not the content.

We need to move the paying customer back to the center of the conference experience. Too many of us have put content at the center of our conference thus resulting in a human-less experience. It feels stale and as if every attendee is nothing more than a number. Focus on creating an amazing experience first. View everything through the attendees’ lens and if it’s not in the best interest of the attendee, Don’t Do It!

2. Beware of serial program execution.

Don’t be a serial conference organizer killing the attendees’ experience! The attendees’ experience suffers from organizers who just replicate the past year’s format and only change the filler. When it looks like last year’s conference, smells like last year’s conference, tastes like last year’s conference and feels like last year’s conference, it’s outdated and out rated. It’s stale.

3. Concentrate on multithreading big ideas for big challenges.

Direct your conference planning attention to the big ideas that help solve your target market attendees’ challenges. Don’t just take any topic and speaker and add them to your conference agenda. Be more intentional and consider multithreading content and experiences for that target market.

4. Become a conference content curator.

The traditional call for speaker proposals is nothing more than an aggregation tool. It’s a bottleneck tool that will kill an attendee’s experience. It’s a roll of the dice if content received from the call for proposals will really meet your attendees’ needs. Offering content for everyone is also a sure way to lose your sexy conference appeal. This is not a one-size fits all experience. Instead, focus on the pain points of your target market and then seek out content that solves those challenges.

5. Create experiences that help attendees understand and apply important information.

Attendees don’t want more information and knowledge. They can get that online. They want practical takeaways. They want to understand critical information and how to apply it to succeed! So focus on securing speakers and facilitators that create experiences that help attendees understand the information, not just receive it. The best conference organizers start asking speakers, “What are the attendees going to do? If it is just sit and listen to you, then we are going to decline your proposal.”

What are some other ways to bring the sexy back to conferences and conference planning? What new things have you seen done at conferences that you wish more conferences implemented?

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  1. Jeff-

    Love this post…of course, I have Justin Timberlake’s song cycling in my head, now!
    I wish conference organizers would look at the overall arc of the event experience vs. plopping in segments indiscriminately. A few weeks ago, I attended a rather bland and boring grand opening of a new conference center….and it could have been absolutely amazing experience – even on a shoestring budget.

  2. Cyndi Randle says:

    Great article, valuable.
    Had to chuckle though under item “4.” I believe it should have read “focus on the main points” not the “pain points”! Or did I misread? Either way almost seems to fit.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Hi Cyndi:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I think you may have misread it…it says “…focus on the pain points and then find content that solves those problems.”

  3. Ted Smith, CAE says:

    Jeff: Did you hit your “refresh” button? Finally, someone speaks out on innovation… but is anyone in the association community listening? The problem with innovation is it takes time and thought and we are many times too busy just focusing on sponsorship revenues and what we did last year.

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