Your conference-slip is showing!
I once worked for a Texas elected official. I quickly learned to tell her if her slip was showing, she had a run in her pantyhose or she had lipstick on her teeth—especially before she went on stage or met with the public.
Well conference professionals, your conference-slip is showing. Your organization’s beliefs—as well as your beliefs—about business, connecting, learning, relationship-building, and today’s society, are showing. Your agenda, schedule and program illuminates your core beliefs.
If conference hosts and meeting professionals don’t foster and protect specific beliefs about today’s society and business, they lack the intellectual framework for their event to transform lives. Their event becomes unremarkable.
Six 21st Century Conference Core Beliefs
Here are six core conference beliefs we must begin to embrace to help our stakeholders succeed in the future. Hat tips Stephen J. Valentine, Reshan Richards and Brad Ovenell-Carter for their work in Blending Leadership.
1. Articulating, Fostering And Advancing A Conference Purpose
Investing in conference speakers to deliver information, without first investing in the organization’s beliefs and the event’s purpose, puts the cart before the horse. We need to ask ourselves deeper questions like “What is the change we want our customers to make from attending our event?”
2. Leveraging Social Sciences—Anthropology, Ethnography and Sociology—To Develop Better Event Experiences
Conferences are for people. They are for our event’s stakeholders and participants. For this reason, conference organizers must become students of anthropology, sociology and ethnography. We must move away from our focus on details, logistics and specifics to one on humanity, culture and people’s behaviors.
3. Engaging Thought Leadership In Planning, Presenting And Facilitating
Most of the conference experience is nothing more than an echo chamber of industry professionals repeating the same thing to the same audience. We need to bring in outside voices to challenge traditional mindsets and beliefs.
4. Conference Professionals Serve As Leaders Defining New Event Realities
When conference and meeting professionals serve as leaders, they can help define their conference reality. (Paraphrase Max De Pree, Leadership Is An Art). This means conference professionals think and act first strategically and then tactically. They focus on the conference purpose and where they want to take their participants before ever discussing room sets, staging, AV and F/B.
5. Challenging Traditional Conference Structures While Changing Meeting Structures
Too often our traditional conference structure resembles models from the past. We need to change the model so that our passive attendees become active participants, collaborators and inventive co-creators. Some of these new meeting structures include:
- Creating blended conference experiences that involve digital participatory experiences before during and after the event.
- Designing collaborative experiences, not just filling schedules with speakers.
- Focusing on learning as an experience not an appointment event.
- Fostering peer sharing while rejecting poker-face insularity.
6. Transitioning Tech Tools From Flash In The Pan To Flash Points
Too much of our conference planning energy is focused on the wrong kind of information—the next shiny technology tool. Even our meeting suppliers are always trying to sell the tech-trend-de jour as a way to wow attendees. We need to shift our conversations away from the tools themselves, especially those that are nothing but a flash in the pan. Instead we should be focused on if and how these tools leverage attendee relationships and authentic learning. If they don’t foster relationship building, connecting and deep learning, they are nothing more than a distraction.
What are additional conference core beliefs that you would add to this list? Which one resonates with you the most and why?