3 T’s Conference delegates are concerned about not having.

Posted by on April 23, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

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I’ve been looking at audiences in 22 countries from the platform for 16 years, and it’s incredible what one can tell about them just from how they react. I find out even more about them during lunch breaks and dinners – particularly since my area of expertise is “the business of people”, and they are, after all, people! Here’s what I see going on in their heads when attending a conference.

Travel: Not only are conference delegates weary of travel as a result of the effects of airline disruptions (think clouds of volcanic ash, terrorism and high cost of travel), increased security measures (I don’t care who you are, it’s not pleasant being stripped to your underwear because you have an odd name), and even the dodgy meals; but they no longer see the value of spending hours in transit. I mean what’s the point of having your event at some remote resort when the programme does not allow delegates to enjoy the surroundings? I’ve travelled to the most beautiful cities and greatest resorts, but all I see of them is the inside of the conference room and fleeting highlights as I drive back to the airport.

Time: every single one of our conference delegates – or potential conference delegates – is time starved. They all work in a modern business environment that demands that they are always on, always connected and always available. It’s business 24 / 7 baby! It’s also very likely that their company has made some cutbacks post-recession so they’re doing two people’s work. Now we want to come to our conference? And stay there for 3 days? Come on!! We’ve got to find ways to do more with less!

Why, for example, are we still stuck in the rut that keynote presentations must be 45 mins? Particularly when speakers, thought leaders and academics from all over world are clamouring to speak at TED – for 20 minutes!! Shorter presentations and keynotes will most definitely create more value and energy at conferences. It’s time to break the mould.
This will also lead to packing more value into a shorter time. 3 day conferences will turn into 2 day events. This will make them more accessible – and more affordable to the time-starved audience.

Technology: It’s time the conferencing industry – and by default the hospitality industry – realise that charging for bandwidth is a naff and outdated concept. So is charging for data projectors (unbelievably some organisers still encounter this). It’s time we extend the reach of our events beyond the four walls of the rooms in which they are held. It’s time that we set up dedicated social media feeds (on Twitter for example) that carry the messages of our speakers to anyone who cares to listen. It’s also very useful for creating immediate feedback to speakers about their content. Good speakers will welcome this as it allows them to know what exactly they could be expanding on and what they can move on from!

Get used to the idea that it’s not only at Geek conferences that delegates want to have their laptops and BlackBerrys active and in front of them throughout. Provide the necessary power plugs and internet access. Why not have a live Twitter feed on a dedicated screen at the front of the room where people can share their insights, log their comments, and arrange to meet up during breaks? Now we’re also getting real conversation going – and networking!

And now audiences can use SpeakerRate.com to rate every performance, every talk, on both content and delivery – and do it real time. SpeakerRate is a community site that is aimed at event organisers, attendees and speakers. Event attendees can provide constructive feedback for the speakers they’ve heard as well as track the talks they’ve attended and research upcoming talks. Speakers can get constructive feedback directly – and immediately – from attendees and find out how they can improve their content and delivery for next time. They can also establish a SpeakerRating, which will help them grow their reputation. Organisers can research and choose the best speakers and presentations for their next event.

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