April 14, 2015
By definition, a conference is a meeting of two or more persons in order to talk about ideas or problems related to a particular topic. Conferences are held on a daily basis, whether it’s a conference in an office between two colleagues, or a conference put on by an organization with attendance reaching into the hundreds. However, whether small, large, or in between, everyone strives to have the best and most effective conference.
The most important step is to begin by setting forth clear objectives. These objectives will then help determine the next steps. For instances, is the objective to introduce a new product to the market, or is it to educate? There is always too much information and not enough time to digest it, meaning, you must pick the top 10 items that will be covered and stick to them, otherwise the conference can run away from the main objective and not reach its full potential.
Recently, the trend in conferences has been to move away from a single speaker and to engage the audience. It is important to remember that the people attending a conference want to be there. The audience therefore is a great source of information and is usually eager to participate and embrace the concepts and talking points. An even better approach is to step down from the podium and walk through the attendees, this allows for a more natural discussion and is extremely engaging. Another idea is to reward the participation. The reward doesn’t have to be a new car or anything grand, but can be a branded product (i.e., a pen with the company logo).
Another great idea is to add in breakout sessions of varying sizes to allow for a more intimate and less formal approach. These could be as simple and straight forward as a mid-afternoon snack in another room, or perhaps something more engaging such as a campfire session. The group sits around in circles and engages in a campfire storytelling approach. The content for the discussion is driven by the attendees, and the facilitator simply drives the discussion. This keeps the session fun and fast paced since everything is based in real time. This also allow the attendees to share their own experiences and network in a more natural setting.