Is your annual meeting more like a time capsule or a time machine?
Conferences that are like time capsules promote and preserve nostalgia and the past. Conferences that are like time machines teleport people to the future so they can discover what’s next.
Conferences that resemble time capsules defend the status quo and traditions. Events that are like time machines invest in preparing their audience for what’s coming around the corner. Ultimately, our conferences should be where the present and future collide for the benefit of our customers!
Meeting Planning Evolves
Many conference organizers have spent their careers in the rhythms, beats and melodies of meeting planning. We recognize that policies, practices, routines, traditions, cultures and advisory committees are a given. Yet too often our past planning procedures serve as the prologue for our future events.
Today, our jobs are evolving. It requires more than the traditional meeting planning skills we’ve developed.
We are being asked to step up and lead conference reinvention, innovation, and quality improvement processes. Leadership and customers expect us to design, envision, implement and lead any conference changes. We are to help volunteers and staff review and revise the conference’s purpose, align conference goals with the organization’s strategy, refine our target market and adjust our budgets accordingly.
To do so, we must develop our understanding and skills regarding process and people. We have to comprehend group dynamics, flow, human relationships, connecting, learning, collaboration and co-creation. This is where our long established routines, programming, process and procedures can suffocate creativity and innovation.
Why Large Conference Rarely Innovate
In his book The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen identifies a primary reason why disruptive innovation tends to come from the outside of a market by new players rather than developed by incumbent players. His research and insights have great application to conferences as well.
Long-established conferences usually have the advantage of a large existing customer base. They are the gorilla-event in the marketplace. Their challenge is that their leaders have high revenue expectations of the annual conference. Without the annual event’s revenue, the organization’s overall budget suffers. So these large events protect what’s worked in the past so they can focus on serving the organization instead of serving the target market.
These longstanding conferences also have deep-seated governance and procedures that involve many players. People expect their roles in planning the conference to be just like it was in the past thus creating another challenge.
So larger conferences change slowly. They are like time capsules.
Defend Or Invest
Many organizations protect their conferences from anything that produces discomfort. They defend the status quo instead of investing in their future. They focus on short-term objectives not long-term growth.
Newer, younger and smaller conferences can easily explore new markets and pursue niches. These agile conferences do not require the same annual revenue from the event like their competitors. Nor do they have the restrictions and expectations from traditional, well-established procedures, process and devoted volunteers. Thus they have more time to focus on innovation and invest in their target market’s future. They are like time machines.
How can your conference leadership team manage innovation and change more deliberately? What aspects of your conference are like a time capsule or a time machine?