Thursday, January 22, 2015

If Nicholas Sparks Wrote an Event

Nicholas Sparks understands the importance of place, of timing, and wastes no words. I have read most of the stories, and been drawn into most of the movies, feeling my own heart break as he weaves love and loss, pleasure and pain, eyes wide open to the reality that life does not usually come easy, that we don't always make choices that make sense, that families are complicated and events can't always be controlled, and in the end it is often the messy bits which make us the people we are.  

Just another great story
If we approached events with the same understanding of storytelling, allowing our audience to grow from hearing and sharing the tough stories, creating balance to focus on what matters and believing words are precious, we would create much different spaces. Much different conversations.  

I have been inspired by many speakers over the years. Storytellers such as Lisa Ling, Aron Ralston, and this year by Robert Fogarty at FICP's Annual Conference in Hawaii with his astounding Dear World project - the speakers that shake you up with tales of their own, and of others, these are the people I want to be inspired by. Stories where every image, every word has a place. 

When we create events, it is the conscious choices we make, in destination and venue(s), layout and design, programmed content balanced against white space and time for informal conversations, sound and lighting, decor - intrinsic vs created, ambient or focal entertainment, food and beverage, and all the thoughtful discussion leading to these decisions which determine the overall planned guest experience. When we market, we hope to capture the attention of the "right" people, those who will benefit from and create the energy of the event as it takes its shape and form. We need to create the environment and provide the information in digestible formats so their choices can be made easily, where conversations can flow, relevant and actionable takeaways can be inspired, and ultimately where they leave feeling richer for the time spent.

What have you been to lately that you felt this happen - where you leave more prepared, more inspired and bigger than when you arrived?  I would love to hear about it!     

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Conferences and Airplanes

Yes, that was fun - and great ideas were shared!
We design meetings for people to connect, communicate and share ideas.  There are literally millions of meetings taking place annually around the globe, bringing people together regionally, nationally and globally, and we know from various research studies most people attend 3 – 6 conferences per year, choosing those they believe will be the most valuable to them.  This nebulous value is determined by the education shared and the people met.  When a trade component is attached, then you may have sales or marketing targets to be met, but each of these transactions begins with a relationship.

So what does this have to do with airplanes?  For not the first time (I wrote about this first  in 2012), I am seated on a plane beside two people who have just attended the same conference.  They have spent 4 days in a new city, focused on similar goals, attending the same sessions and networking functions, likely passing in the hall more than once.  They didn’t meet.  They are now seated beside each other on a four hour flight, and from the first ‘Oh you were at X too’, they have not stopped talking. They have shared ideas for courses,  mutual connections, ideas around managing their students (they are both from universities) and have moved on to challenges they face with students, with funding, managing co-workers and family balance, and have come up with a few “a-ha” moments, with much nodding, smiling and brightness in the conversation.

How do we create an event which allows these types of conversations to happen?  Where there is a balance of thought provoking speakers who inspire disruptive thinking to happen, and where action can be driven by the conversations that follow, and where white space is encouraged.  Where networking functions are not buffet lines and cocktails with music slightly too loud to converse over, adding to a thumping ambience, but instead have features that elicit comments and food and beverage that enhances the overall sensations – taste, texture, health, and delight all incorporated.  Where we use technology in all its forms to support the experience. Where you have the opportunity to “touch” each person at least once, and where you leave with deep connections with at least a few people who will become game-changers for you, your business, your lifestyle.  These are the questions I can’t wait to explore this year.