Always use the brainpower of an audience and ask ‘what can we create here?’
It is a rare conference that actually uses this expertise and leverages it to create new knowledge.
To achieve this, it can be as simple as changing one keynote presentation into a participative session that involves people in a meaningful way. This is crucial for all events as people want to contribute their expertise and insights.
For example, change one session into a 30-minute ‘greatest challenge’ idea factory. Take five minutes to put a context around one question: What is the biggest challenge you will face next year? Then have each participant invest 10 to 15 minutes to contribute their ideas. Collect these ideas and use them to advance the company or association in some way.
This type of ‘greatest challenges’ workshop has been used by some events to generate hundreds of ideas which Associations turn into articles for newsletters, themes for workshops, and to develop new services.
Here are lots of other examples of using the brainpower in the room.
Questions for conference designers
- If we assume that you will have a room of ‘experts’, what types of challenges could people solve or contribute ideas to?
- How can you save the cost of a keynote speech and use the time for a collaboration session?
- How can you enhance the value of your keynote speakers by including elements of collaboration to discuss the speaker’s key message?
Insight from the book
Know how you will use the ideas
If you want people to contribute their ideas toward solving a problem or creating an initiative, know how you will use the ideas. Be very clear with your audience that all ideas will be collected, assembled into a document, assessed and so on. If you have no intention of using the ideas do not ask for them.
Hundreds of people can brainstorm at the same time if the session is organized and structured. The use of round tables is perfect as this is ideal for table-top brainstorming. Sixty tables of eight people gives you about 500 people who can provide 1000 ideas in 30 minutes. These need to be sorted and distilled to find the truly great concepts.