Here's What I Learnt After Attending Hundred Events
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A recent social media post showcased how event delegates can make the most during this conference season in India — those from reviewing conference agenda, researching on the speakers to making more introductions and sharing notes with the community. In this article I would like to share how event organizers, in these fast-paced times, can add more value to their many stakeholders.
Having been part of over 100 events in the past few years, those ranging from global conferences to local meet-ups, and in roles such as co-organiser, presenter, panellist, sponsor, exhibitor, media partner and you name it — I have had many learning and trends — some of which I would like to share here.
Whether one recommends it or not, today’s reality is people do multiple-task, often not by choice but as a mandate of their profession. Most of the conference delegates I have noticed seem equally interested in networking and demonstrating solutions as they may be in listening to sessions and speakers. Event organizers would do well to provide information on sessions on a regular basis to their delegates, so they can plan better and not miss out on those that may make sense for their growth.
This can make a world of difference, quite literally. I would not be surprised if conference organizers highlighting their internet access and venue connectivity benefit from increased ticket sales. Today, a lot of us expect the kind of connectivity we experience at our homes and offices, and hence connectivity needs to be an important part of an organiser’s planning. After all, a seamless connectivity will benefit the organisers as well by helping them amplify their event with the audience’s many shares.
Conferences for Learning
This is a trend that is prevalent today, in particular among the millennials who are increasing leveraging conferences as a source of learning. In the recent past I have had college students tell me how much they have learnt on blockchain, AI and IoT during events. I’m a big supporter of learning at conferences - imagine subject-matter experts and thought-leaders congregating in one place and sharing their insights in well-prepared byte-sized capsules. This is something not many educational institutes or even MOOC courses can boast of. Conference learnings could soon become primers for deeper dives into topics and specialisations by its delegates.
The pricing at events, as I believe, should be flexible keeping in mind the diverse interests of its potential attendees. Often there is disproportionate attention given to speaker lists, with the expectation that eminent speakers alone can bring in the crowds.
However I see this trend changing, especially with speakers these days being more accessible. Hence organisers will have to find other ways of adding value to potential attendees and covering costs. Charging additionally for specific workshops, offering extra facilities like a conference business centre (think of a flight’s economy & business class) and even encouraging more transactions at the venue, alongside the giving of freebies.
Even as we are slowly but surely realising that today’s education need not just be a memory competition, we are inadvertently making events into one. We would do a world of good, if delegates had access to videos and presentations of speaker sessions as well as crowdsourced notes - all of which conference delegates can refer to and lookup at their convenience. There is so much intelligence and collective wisdom at one place, why not tap into them more effectively?
Know Who are Attending
Not just the partners and speakers list, knowing all the other attendees can help delegates plan their conference time and connect with each other productively. For far too long we have focused just on serendipitous interactions at conference venue, where one leads to missing out of those attendees who could end up making more sense to one’s business.
Share Expectations in Advance
Like any other event in one’s life, business conferences too will be subject to comparisons and setting of unrealistic expectations.
All the marketing efforts around a conference only amplifies these expectations. For instance, in events with pitching competitions, presenters expect immediate investor funding if they win, which hardly happens. Just a disclaimer stating that even if one won the pitch competition, investors may subject them to further due diligence, and only then they may or may not receive funding, can solve this. However, just like the rare bottle-throwing incident at sports events, one must be prepared for the occasional disappointment - which in the conference context tends to manifest itself into bitter write-ups.
Bringing it all together, just like content, events are increasing becoming a part of most business’ strategy. From leads and learnings to establishing more trust with communities and potential talent, events can go a long way in helping one realise their business goals - if pursued objectively. The future of events would need more planning, continuous engagement and also a way of measuring their effectiveness.