Common, Yet Hazardous, Conference Planning Thinkholes That Inhibit Uniqueness


Why do so many people rate the conference experience as stale, predictable and average at best?

Why do conference leaders miss the mark at preparing their own unique DNA conference experience? Why do so many conference organizers miss the opportunity to create a matchless thumbprint on their event’s identity?

We as conference organizers often have the common habit of neglecting what makes our event’s experience unique. Instead, we gravitate towards programs and mindsets that work elsewhere. We have lost our way to discovering our own conference DNA!

Adapted from author Will Mancini’s writings on organizational leadership.

Defining Thinkholes

Have you ever seen a sinkhole?

A sinkhole is a cavity in the ground. It is caused by some sort of collapse of the surface. They can form suddenly or gradually over time.

Well, a thinkhole is a thinking sinkhole. It is a depression in our ability to provide adequate thinking about our conference planning.

A thinkhole is the quicksand-like dynamic that keeps you and your team from reflecting, evaluating, assessing and thinking. Analytic and evaluative thinking gets eclipsed by the need to produce something, anything, at the moment. It suffocates any reasonable logic and causes reflection to disappear.

The first step is to identify these thinkholes. They are keeping you from success. They are securing your comfort of status quo.

The First Three Hazardous Thinkholes

Here are three common conference planning hazards that appear in one form or another across event landscapes. (Watch for four more thinkholes in the next post.)

Each one of these directly crosses our thinking path. Because they keep us from reflecting, evaluation and deep thinking, they are called Thinkholes.

1. Conference Planning Treadmills Thinkhole

The conference treadmill is set in motion when the busyness of the planning and implementing the event creates a mindset of hurriedness. Templates, timelines, deadlines, checklists and process drive our busyness. This progressive irreversible busyness in the conference planning process prevents us from taking the necessary time to think, reflect, assess and evaluate.

When was the last time you spent one hour reflecting about the culture of your conference experience?

We have to hit the brakes! We have to devote adequate time to thinking about creating something unique or we get stuck in the Conference Thinkhole of the Planning Treadmill.

2. The “I’m Competent Trap” Thinkhole

As you experience success throughout your career, that accomplishment can actually become your liability. Your past success becomes your ball and chain. It stops you from future conference uniqueness.

The mental thought of, “I know how to do this,” actually keeps you from observing, listening, reflecting and thinking.

What learning opportunities are you attending? How often are you asking questions of why, why not, how come or what will it take to make this happen? What are you thinking about reinventing or changing for your conference experience today?

3. The “Slippery Slope Of Needs Based Planning” Thinkhole

Many conference organizers start out with the intentionality to meet the legitimate concerns of their attendees. However, leadership’s cruise control of “react to everyone’s needs,” can become a stopping place for failure.

Why? Because there is always a persistent parade of needs from every individual that must be addressed. We start addressing the vocal, squeaky minority instead of the majority. Those conferences are missing out on fulfilling their unique mission by trying to be all things to all members.

Consumerism, and the idea of providing something for everyone, outweighs strategic wise discernment on what’s in the best interest of the profession or the industry. And what works best for our target market.

Where do you as a conference organizer get stuck? Where does your conference planning team get bogged down?

Read Part Two.

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