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Rule Rule 1

The experts at your conference are in the audience, not on the stage

As a speaker at many conferences it’s clear that many event organizers assume that people go to a conference to see experts and motivators. At least this is what the design of most conferences suggests. We often bring outsiders into an Association or Corporate conference and ignore the voices of those who work in it. This often results in generic presentations which miss what the audience really needs to hear.

There is value in the outside view, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of the expertise and insight in the audience. Don’t ignore the expertise, insight and experience in the audience.

Questions for conference designers

  • What expertise or insight will your conference participants bring to the event?
  • How can you harness this expertise, even if for 60 minutes?
  • How will you engage your participants and the expertise and experience they bring to your conference?

Insight from the book

What’s your idea to make this a better company to work for?

I asked this question to 110 employees at a New Zealand company conference. People had 15 minutes to write down one idea. About 160 ideas were collected. I then worked with the ideas to reduce them to about 50 unique ideas. They fell into five categories ranging from ‘company communications’ to ‘fixing up the office.’ The CEO looked at the results and saw the immediate value of the ideas. He also learned that most staff felt they did not understand the direction of the company. This was a serious communication problem. This insight gave a whole new meaning of success to this event because the CEO discovered a major problem.