Three Core Conference Planning Tenets To Master And Skillfully Apply

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Does your conference committee practice organized abandonment and avoid no-bottom-line-mindsets?

What is their capacity to see opportunities in the mist of change? How are they at focusing on the purpose, goals and target market of the conference when making decisions?

These three principles are vital to maintaining a healthy, strong conference. Often conference planning members lack experience with the tenets of organized abandonment, focus on strategic alignment and organizing for opportunity. All conference planning teams need to develop, master and apply these skills.

Organized Abandonment

Most nonprofit organizations have no bottom line.

“They do to have a bottom line,” you say.

Yes, ultimately they do. However, leadership sometimes makes decisions as if they have no bottom line. Consider the following:

Many conference leaders are prone to consider every program component as honorable and virtuous. “We provide something for everyone,” they claim. They frequently reject the belief that if a conference element doesn’t produce results, it should be killed and its resources redirected elsewhere. They place more value on its perceived virtuous aspects than its outcomes. They forget the bottom line.

To avoid this no-bottom-line-mentality, nonprofit organizations should practice the discipline of organized abandonment.

The one thing nonprofits must learn to do is how to kill programs and outdated processes, says management guru Peter Drucker.

Every nonprofit must continue to evolve or it risks becoming irrelevant. Every leader must constantly ask, as Drucker suggests, “What can we stop doing?”

To progress and grow, leaders must identify what’s holding it back. They must evaluate what’s stunting growth. They must identify and abandon ineffective programs and services.

Focus On Strategic Alignment

The ability to implement organized abandonment requires sharp focus and alignment with vision, purpose and strategy.

Many conferences planning committees struggle with focus because their effectiveness bears more fruit.

“Huh? What do you mean their effectiveness bears more fruit and therefore they struggle with clarity?”

Think of it like this: with success come more options.

Ironically, adding new options can dilute the very success that brought them to where they are.

The key is to uncover which opportunities are really distractions in disguise to avoid. This is hard to do. It’s even harder for volunteer leaders who are prone to consider everything an organization offers as righteous and noble. Thus these leaders are often not willing to say: if it doesn’t produce results, then maybe we should direct our resource elsewhere.

The ongoing irony is that more focus brings even more success, making it again harder to maintain clear focus. Only those who sustain a single-minded resolve on strategic alignment can continue to reap the hundredfold fruit.

The reality is that focus expands options, success and even failure.

Organize For Opportunity

Conference organizers often avoid change. They ask, “Why break something that’s working?”

Well, don’t wait to be forced to change or innovate says Drucker.

Instead, organize your conference planning processes for systemic innovation. Build into your planning process steps where leaders search for conference opportunities. Look at needed changes as indicators of an opportunity for innovation.

Most of our current conference data collection systems are reports or aggregates. These systems don’t reveal opportunities. They report problems or identify needs. They look backwards, not forwards.

Whenever a conference committee sees the need for a change, they should ask, “If this were an opportunity for us, what would it be?”

First, they must avoid the attempt to build too much reinsurance into that change as they seek to innovate. They must reject the belief that they cannot alienate legacies or traditions. And they must quiet the thoughts of covering their flanks.

Second, they have to avoid putting these new ideas into existing silos. Why? Because those silos will always give precedent to solving the daily crisis instead of innovating for tomorrow says Drucker.

So when you try to develop the new within an existing operation, you are always postponing tomorrow. It must be set up separately, claimed Drucker.

What are some other high-level tenets that conference leaders must develop and skillfully apply? Which of these three tenets—organized abandonment, focus on strategic alignment or organized for opportunity does your conference team struggle with the most?

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