Practicing Conference Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less And Better

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It’s hard for conference organizers to stick to planning the essential elements of their events.

We are bombarded from every side from people who want us to add their components to the schedule. Various departments and committees see the event’s gathering of people as an opportunity for them to showcase their programs, services and agendas.

As a conference professional, it is your mission each day to keep your focus on the essential elements of your event for your customers’ sake. Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all and to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter says author Greg McKeown. You’ll have to embrace and develop essentialism—the disciplined pursuit of less and better to succeed.

Essentialism: What It Is And What It Isn’t

Essentialism is a board category of philosophy that has its roots in Plato and Aristotle. Some of essentialism’s guiding ideas apply well to business and conferences.

Most conferences exist to help their primary target markets progress and advance in their industry, profession and trade. This is their core—their essence—for existence.

Applying essentialism to conferences, is not about going back to some better time in the past. It is not about removing technology, smart phones and social media from events. It’s about applying the principles of less but better to our conferences.

Practicing conference essentialism is not about getting more things done. It is about how to get the right things done.

Practicing conference essentialism is not about adding more elements to your event, or adding the next best shiny innovation. It is about the focus of less but better. It is about focusing on the essence of what’s needed and removing all of the unnecessary accessories that become distractions.

Practicing conference essentialism is not about one more thing to add to you to do list. It’s a whole new way of planning, programming and implementing conferences.

The way of a conference essentialist means living by design not by default to paraphrase McKeown. It means practicing intentionality and focus. It’s not acquiescing to each sub-group that wants to add something to the event agenda.

Three Mentalities To Conqueror To Embrace Essentialism

Too many conference and meeting professionals believe that being overly busy and overextended is evidence of their productivity. Unfortunately in our time-starved and attention-drained world we don’t allow ourselves the space to think. We avoid thinking as if it’s anti-productive.

We have to exercise the art of focus. Focus is more than something we have. It is something we must practice daily. In order to focus, we often need to escape trivial distractions and be selective about essential things that also provide quality.

This is easier said than done. Some people will peddle certain ideas that will push you towards the logic of being all things to all people.

There are three deeply entrenched common-place assumptions that we must conquer in order to develop conference essentialism:

  1.  I have to
  2.  It’s all important
  3.  I can do both

These three well-accepted norms lead us to do more than we should in our events. They get us dabbling in the nonessentials. We suddenly offer a variety of choices that result in our customers drifting from the essentials. These three expectations are as dangerous as they are seductive. They lure us in and drown us in diversions. Sometimes those diversions even feel entertaining, satisfying and amusing. However, they take our focus from the essence of what we need to know, understand and learn.

We have to replace these three false principles with three core convictions says McKeown:

  1.  I choose to
  2.  Only a few things matter
  3.  I can do anything but not everything

These three simple truths can cause us to wake-up to our nonessential trance. They can free us from the chains of doing it all to pursuing what really matters. They enable us to plan a conference that is at our highest level of contribution for our customers.

What is the essence of your conference? As a conference professional, what is your essence when planning and programming an event?

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