Unless you go somewhere exotic and participate in amazing team
building events, most conferences are relatively routine. Often
what is memorable are things like the time Barb put bubble bath
in the hot tub, or when Norm got thrown out of the hotel after
too much networking.|
Below are three guidelines that will help you design events that
can be positively life-changing.
EVERYTHING IS A METAPHOR
Everything people experience at the conference
is a message about what the organizers think about themfrom pre-conference
materials to the conference gift. For example, how does the
message behind the name tag that simply reads "BOB",
differ from the one that reads "Dr. R.J. Barns, Sr. Vice
President, Chemical Spills Division, Western Region"?
What is the message behind pre-assigned seating? Or having
anonymous, if not planted, questions being read off of cards
for the President's Q&A session? What interpretation do
people attach to the fact that the President left right after
his speech? It's not a case of right or wrong, it's what message
do you want to send? First decide on the message then make
sure your methodology or design matches.
A GROUP WILL ACT LIKE IT LOOKS
Which room looks engaging, fun and productive; one where participants
are in casual clothes, chairs and tables scattered with no
apparent centre of control, or the one where participants are
in business attire, sitting classroom style behind computer
generated tent cards looking up at an elevated lectern? How
these two groups will behave is absolutely predictable. They
will behave according to their appearance. You can't create
a spirit of togetherness by having people widely spread out
in the auditorium with most sitting at the back. Want togetherness?
Book a room almost too small for the group. Barring serious
organizational pathology, emotional closeness will follow physical
closeness. Reach emotional closeness and you're not far from
I remember speaking in a room set up in rigid classroom style,
everyone in neat rows facing the front (despite my counsel
to the contrary). The lectern was at least five feet above
the participant's level. The conference theme? Teambuilding.
The executive who had it set up that way really wanted control
over the participants and he got it. The teamwork theme was
him being politically correct.
PROVIDE LOTS OF ROOM FOR CHOICES
When you give people choice, you give them power. Choice and
power are synonyms. When you give people power, you give them
freedom. When you give them freedom, you give them back their
life and individuality. When people feel truly free they will
choose to unify and find purpose. And that is what you want,
I feel claustrophobic just reading the agenda from some
conferences. Everything is so controlled and so predetermined.
Literally every moment is scheduled.
The conference is being done to people rather than the people doing the
conference. No wonder there is so little enthusiasm and commitment. One
agenda began: "Welcoming remarks @ 9:00-9:03". You can tell there
was lots of room for creativity and exploration. Another one for senior
executives sent out a whole page on dress starting with "Travel-wear
comfortable, loose fitting clothes". Somebody needed to tell these
folks what to wear on the plane?
I know some believe control and structure is essential. My intention
with these guidelines is to help unify corporate spirit with our
logistical, three dimensional and time-bound thinking. The latter
needs to change and become a conduit for the former. Let's start
designing events that let the human spirit out instead of boxing
it. Only then will we see what is truly possible. You will be amazed.
The following quotation
must be printed at the conclusion of each reprinted article:
"Copyright The Ian Percy Corporation."
Ian Percy is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.
Ian Percy is an international
speaker and consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com