September 17, 2018 by Jeff Hurt
Most conference and meeting professionals want the coolest, hippest, latest ideas and trends for their events.
We are on the hunt for the next meeting, seating, session format, technology, and food and beverage fad. We want to know what unique things other conferences are doing so we can borrow their ideas.
We pursue fads, gimmicks and trends as the silver bullets of our conference woes. We expend resources searching for the mysterious conference trend panacea. These fads and trends appear as a miraculous mirage full of promise yet they often fail to deliver.
We’ve all jumped on at least one of them. Some of us drove them. Some led the circus parade with them. Their carnival carousel music carried us away.
They have shiny wheels. Slick, smooth, polished looks. Inviting interiors. They are easy to access and use. They move fast and promise immediate results.
What are they? Conference trend and fad bandwagons. Nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
It’s easy to get caught up in the snake charmer’s anecdotal sales spell. We have FOMO (fear of missing out) as social media screams that everyone’s doing it. We are infected by the trendy meeting bandwagon participation virus. Raving testimonials from those that have tried this fad convince us.
These bandwagon fads woo our innate desire for conference improvement and innovation. While our intention is pure, our rush to quick answers for speedy results fail us. Without committing the time and effort to fully understand, evaluate and consider the consequences of these trends, we experience more mediocre results.
Fads are anchors that discourage movement except when it is to move away from whatever is expected says futurist David M. Zach. Or to reject what’s already in place. Fads are less about innovation. They are more about reacting immediately. They rise fast in popularity and disappear just as quickly. Fads pretend to be trends.
Trends are about movement and intention. They rise in popularity more slowly than fads. When considering a meeting trend, we have to ask where it will lead us two, five or even ten years.
Many conference professionals falsely assume that simple changes based on fads and trends will lead to immediate and quick results. We have been seduced by short-term results from swift, easy-to-implement gimmicks and fads. Sometimes those short term wins actually result in long term decline.
Conference fads are like huge waves rocking a boat demanding our attention says Zach. Meeting trends on the other hand are like underwater currents—harder to see yet powerful enough to move a boat he explains.
Ultimately, conference professionals have to stop obsessing about the waves on the water or navigating current trends. Instead, we should focus our energy and resources on emerging evergreen conference practices that have the best long-term results.
Emerging practices are evergreen principles. These things don’t change much. Just as fads anchor you to a specific moment in time, these evergreen principles free you from nostalgia. However, these emerging evergreen practices are often difficult to defend especially when attendees are screaming for cutting-edge, emotionally-charged, dopamine-laden top-last-year’s-experience occurrences.
The next time a trendy bandwagon comes along, press pause. Take a deep breath. Exhale. And think.
This is the exact time to be curious, to be rigorous, to be analytical and scientific says Professor Rob Cole referring to educational trends. This is the time to be tough on what people are telling you. This is when you should argue your case with leadership that ask you to implement trends and fads without evidence that they work.
Hat tips to Teacher Toolkit blog posts on trends and myths.
What was the last conference trend bandwagon that you jumped on? What meeting fad have conference organizers wasted their time doing the most?
Filed Under: Experience Design
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