Monday, October 22, 2012

Conference Speakers- Please Provide Three Learning Objectives AND Three Connection Objectives

People do not attend business events simply for the content.  There is a perceptional disconnect that "content is king" when it comes to planning events.  If the purpose of events is only about content there are many more efficient ways to garner information.  If people only desire the educational component, they could read books, surf the net, watch videos, take a class, view a webinar, hire a consultant, etc....  If your attendees only want content.... send them a white paper!

Connections with others is an important part motivation for attending conferences, trade shows, conventions, seminars and other gatherings.  Humans are social beings.  Even with all the discussions about introverts and extroverts, all who attend events hope that they will create some meaningful relationships.  Being an introvert does not mean they never want to associate with others (introvert does not translate to hermit), but instead it is about the need for some private down-time to recharge their batteries.  Most introverts enjoy their time with others, and I know many who thrive while attending business events (they are just not getting their energy at the happy hour like many of their extrovert brethren).  Yet many planners think if they have a "left-brained" crowd that they do not care about connections.  Not necessarily.

It is an easy excuse to hide behind the importance of the learning component to mask the failure to create an atmosphere for better networking and beneficial connections.  I am not discounting the legitimacy of learning at events (so don't mis-interpret my purpose).  People are not only seeking great parties when they attend a conference.  They want both education and connections.

The best learning at events is often claimed to come during the "hallway conversations", those spontaneous deep-dive chats that take place with other attendees after participating in a keynote or breakout session.  People have ideas, and when they share them with each other bigger ideas can be born.  Additionally the old-style expert lecture has lost appeal to those in the audience.  People want interactive, which means more than open-mic Questions at the end of a talk.  Yet defining "interactive" is not easy, as it is a feeling.  Some of the best interactive speakers do not do traditional Q & A or live exercises.  Yet their style leave people feeling they were part of the conversation (when maybe they never said a word).  The speakers ability to created community is paramount to success.

Creating a better "Conference Attendee Experience" means that all aspects of a conference must move toward both learning and connections.  Speakers are regularly asked to provide there learning objectives to the planners in advance of the talk, but I believe event organizers should also be asking those that present for three ways they encourage audience connections in their presentations.  Regardless of their topic as speaker should be prompting conversations in the hallways after their session ends.  If there is just a dump of data without anything more the whole session if a flop.  Planners should demand more from those who present.

Many speakers claim their job is to share their expertise, not contribute to the overall effectiveness and success of the meeting.  WRONG.  All speakers (keynote and breakout) are responsible for setting the tone for the whole event.  Presentations should actively engage the audience before, during and after the speech (this means live at the event and before and after via social media, etc...).  Having the speakers present at breaks, happy hours and meals the day of the talk (if not throughout the whole conference) is usually desired by attendees, and makes the speakers part of the mini-society that is created at an event.

What are the connection objectives for your event?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. 


Anonymous said...

Seems more and more meeting planners expect speakers to do more than speak. It does not help when other speakers promote doing more.

justin locke said...

An excellent post, is easy as a speaker to get all involved in one's "content." Also, schmoozing off the podium is always a great op for a speaker to make connections for more business. Only thing I might add is, speakers don't run the events, so can event owners suggest /create ways, other than just standing around in a hallway, for speakers to interact with attendees? Is it up to the speaker to find a time and space on the fly? Perhaps not structured, but at least give options, as of course we speakers want to give customers what they want. --jl

Thom Singer said...

Justin... yes, event owners should work with speakers to help create opportunities. And speakers need to see themselves as "partners" in the event's success... not just a paid vendor!!

thanks for your comment. Love it when people add to the conversation!!!!

justin locke said...

I enjoyed you podcast. I could tell you stories of severe clock management in the orchestra world. says a lot about your trust quotient. --jl