What makes a conference work?

What Makes A Conference Work?

Is it the speakers? Is it the Agenda? Is it the Venue? Is it the food? Is it the participants?

Sitting at the back of a conference this week, for most of the day (as I was the final speaker!) it was interesting to observe what was going on and what wasn't!

Bravo to the speakers with their wealth of experience and being accommodating -speaking for 30 minutes and then participating in a Q&A discussion isn't an easy feat.

Whilst the information was informative, real and thought provoking, there was a slight problem - we are all unique human beings and what turns on one doesn't turn on the other.

When you design a conference, the simple things are: the right type of food & refreshments which promotes alertness, rather than sluggishness. The aesthetics of the room - shape, lighting and the heating/cooling have a huge influence on our ability to be present. And seating and placement of tables requires care and concern - facing the speaker is everyone's right!

The agenda of a conference requires specific attention - it must cater not only for the intended market,  it must cater for humans' learning styles and preferences. Light and shade, short snappy interactive sessions, humor, compelling data and it must involve the whole body, not just the eyes & ears!

Speakers must have a good understanding of the venue, the agenda, what the other speakers are speaking & doing, the audience make up, and then they must consider how they will deliver their information. The choice of PowerPoint should be to show images and not a transcript of the presentation; sound and props help the audience understand and maintain connected and involving the people in front of you is paramount. (TED has some great examples of what to do.)

And then there are conference participants. Pick the components you want to listen too. Take a break if you're getting fidgety as your body is sending you signals and you're annoying the people around you. Be kind with your questions - allow the speaker to understand and let the response be for the conference and not you alone.    

We all get to go to conferences. I've been to quite a few around the world, rather selfishly I've taken note of what works and what doesn't. I could go on!!!