Home' micenet eMag : micenet June July 2015 Contents MEETING DESIGN | NIGEL COLLIN
ow I’m not a gambling man but
time and time again one of the
biggest challenges I hear from
conference organisers and event
owners is making sure their audiences are
engaged and stay engaged. If I was a
gambling man then listing lack of engagement
as one of the top challenges of conference
design would be a pretty safe bet.
The simple fact is if you’re in a conference
room listening to stuff you’re not actually
interested in then you will find something else
that does interest you. You will start doodling,
checking your emails, reading that report
you’ve neglected or better still catching up
on some long lost sleep. But if the topic
interests you then you will hang on every
word, take it all in, think about it, digest it and
most likely use it.
That being the case, our job as conference
designers is to find ways to make sure we
deliver content that is of interest to our
audience or delivered in an interesting way
because if they aren’t interested then they
aren’t engaged, and if they aren’t engaged, it
all becomes a big waste of time.
It’s a topic we started talking about last
month when we spoke of finding ways of
letting your audience contribute during
presentations and conference sessions
themselves. So let’s extend that idea further
and talk about how to get your audience
contributing to topics and sessions long
Why aren’t audiences engaged with the presenter? Because they’re all on
LISTEN TO ME
before the conference begins.
There are many ways to do this and in a world where everyone has a voice and is more than
happy to contribute it’s not too difficult.
Don’t just ask them - ask them ‘why’?
Traditionally a survey or questionnaire or similar would be sent out to previous delegates asking
for topics of interest. That’s a great start but as you and I both know topics are very subjective
things with many undercurrents. What interests me about social media might not interest you.
So don’t just ask for topics; ask ‘why’ those topics are important?
Ask a broad question?
People tend to tell you what they think you want to hear. So to get honest input ask a totally
open question such as ‘what’s the biggest challenge our industry faces?’ Don’t frame the
question with specifics such as ‘what’s the biggest challenge in sales?’ because you’ll get
sales-focused answers. Just keep it open, then shut up and listen.
Bring them into the fold
One of the best ways to find out the pulse of your audience is to ask a few of them to join the
conference committee or at least be part of a planning think tank. I’m not suggesting they get
involved in logistics or programming but what I am saying is there is immense opportunity from
other minds who see things differently.
Make it easy for them to tell you
Spend some time and think about how you can make it easy for your audience to tell you
what’s of interest. If it’s not easy they won’t do it, so no 12 page surveys or mini events to gain
input. Everyone is way too busy so you need to make it easy and simple.
Remember, if they’re not interested, they aren’t engaged and they’ll turn on the smartphones.
So when you’re designing your conference program, take the time to really think about how you
can entice potential delegates to contribute ideas about the topics and the content.
Next time we’re going to step sideways and look at how to grab attention and nail your
message through shorter sharper presentations. m
Nigel Collin is a meeting designer and content director as well as speaker within the meetings and
events industry. More can be found at www.nigelcollincreative.com.au.
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