The ‘straight goods’ on…

What business people really want from a conference:

(To download this document, click on the link at the bottom of the page)

I’ve spoken at over 1500 business conferences in the past 18 years and it always amazes me how often arranging the golf tournament gets more attention than determining the bottom-line outcomes to be delivered and selecting the best presenters to deliver them. It’s sort of like how many humans pay more attention to who their pets will mate with than to picking their own life partner.

Business people are busy and they’re “conferenced” to death. So we need to deliver lasting bottom-line value. Conference planners must, first, be absolutely clear about the real ‘purpose’ of the event and, for the record, “Because we’ve always had one.” is not a ‘purpose’.  For every meeting and event, visualize, document and commit to specific and extraordinary outcomes for your attendees and for your organization. If you can’t think of any, save your money!

As we search for ‘purpose’, a good place to start would be by understanding why business people attend meetings and conferences in the first place. Experience tells me that business people are looking for five things.

  1. First, to learn new ideas, new techniques, or new ways of applying what they already know that will give them a competitive advantage, improve their skills, or improve their bottom line.
  2. To network, to create leads or contacts and to feel connected, or reconnected, in this increasingly disconnected world.
  3. To re-energize, to laugh, to believe and to be uplifted and inspired in this demanding and stressful world.
  4. To celebrate their accomplishments, to recommit to their continued success…and to have fun!
  5. To be heard and to contribute.

So, if this is what our ‘customers’ really want, these would be the five most important ‘purposes’ for any business meeting or conference.

Why is ongoing learning so important? Back in the 1970’s the sum total of knowledge on this planet was doubling about every seven years. The people who study such things for a living tell us that now knowledge is likely doubling about every 11 hours.  This means that when we go to bed and sleep for 11 hours, when we wake up, we’re only half as smart as we were when we went to bed! So, for now…and for the rest of our lives, “We are what we continue to learn!”

So, first and foremost, people want cutting edge ideas delivered in a straightforward, uplifting and entertaining manner.  They want to learn…and they want to have fun doing it! 

Then, to be balanced, energized and ‘whole’ in this demanding and stressful world, people also need to laugh, to be uplifted and inspired.

Finally, they want all of that delivered at a conference venue that WOW’s them and honours them. The location of a conference matters. Choose it wisely.

Together, those of us who organize and create business conferences are responsible for delivering much of the life-long learning, refocusing, inspiration, and re-energizing that’s so necessary for personal and organizational growth in this fast-changing world.  Together, we’re in the business of helping people create extraordinary businesses and extraordinary lives!

So, what we do matters.  That we do it wonderfully and professionally, matters.

None of this happens without effective communication:

In both business and in life, the process of learning is not just about developing new ideas, techniques or processes. It’s about effectively communicating them with the clarity, energy, authority and humor that creates retention and facilitates implementation. 

Ideas that have the power to transform, along with the inspiration and laughter that smooth life’s journey, can only be delivered effectively by people with superb communication skills.  It’s not enough to inform…we must also engage, energize and inspire! 

This brings us to an important question, “Why pay money for professional speakers, trainers or  facilitators?  Why not just have someone from our industry say a few words?”  The short answer is, “For the same reason that you’d choose a ‘professional’ for any critical task…like, for example, brain surgery!”

Experts who speak professionally are committed to their specific area of expertise, to skillfully delivering presentations that ‘grab’ people’s minds and hearts and to delivering the specific outcomes that clients choose. Professionals raise critical questions, deliver new insights, challenge old thinking and excite their audiences about new possibilities.

Ironically, while the compelling communication of business and life-changing content is the primary purpose of most meetings and conferences, the actual selection of the very people who will deliver that content is often not a planning or a budget priority. 

From my almost 20 years of speaking at business conferences throughout the world, there seem to be a few ‘myths’ that need to be addressed…

Myth #1: “That a great Conference can be planned and executed by the VP of Marketing’s new assistant, in her spare time.” Nice try folks…it simply is not true. Get experienced help!

Myth #2: When it comes to choosing the people who will deliver the all-important content for your Conference there is a myth that, “Amateurs are as good as professionals…and they’re free.”  This is a tempting thought, but it’s almost never true. 

Myth #3: “We can always get a speaker or trainer at the last minute, so there’s no need to plan ahead.”  The truth here is that hundreds of clients are disappointed every year when they find out that the best presenters are already booked. Secondly, the ‘best’ will need time to research and prepare in order to effectively address your specific outcomes…that’s why they’re the best.

The same holds true for selecting entertainers, if that’s part of your program. Everyone loves to be entertained by true professionals.  Choosing the right entertainment is as important and as challenging as selecting the right content speakers.  I’ve seen way too many drunken and inappropriate entertainers to ever take this one for granted.

So, if you’re seriously committed to creating a business conference or event that delivers significant and lasting bottom-line value, first be clear about the specific outcomes you’re committed to and then move the selection of presenters way up your list of priorities. 

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