Event organisers find it easy to get
obsessed by the many details they need to attend to, but I learned the
one thing that needs to be considered above all others is to make
delegates turn up again and again.
I’ve been around a while,
worked on events for more than 60 of the Fortune 100, in over 30
countries, and brought all that work in on time and on budget. Then I
realised all that was irrelevant.
In 2006 I attended my first TED event. Do go.
At first I sat there wondering why I had spent several thousand dollars to listen to a bunch of speakers.
spent most of the 80s and 90s listening to, on average, two
motivational speakers a week. So I can tell you they don’t always work.
So why had I flown all the way to California to listen to what I
expected to be three days of motivational speakers? Was I nuts?
In fact I wasn’t nuts, well not in hindsight anyway. I learned that content is what matters to an event.
Proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks:
I realised that all the work I had done in the past with elegantly
designed, flawlessly executed events with witty strap lines and clever
menus are good but they’re not the core.
When I attended TED I heard about the person who was the Curator. A word I’d never come across at an event before.
The focus of my work shifted from that moment – I now focus on messages and delivery – although I only realised I’d learned the lesson long after my work’s focus had changed.
deeper lesson came from the way TED is curated. As you may be aware,
there are locally organised TEDx events, locally organised sometimes
without the rigour of curation at the main annual TED.
parallels in some of the speaking engagements I have undertaken. Some of
the event organisers ask if I can speak, agree a fee, and then give me
an allocated time slot. The measure of success is often only whether I
fill the slot and don’t over run. Once again the success of TED is to
build a programme which is a cogent story made up of the individual
talks adding up to a greater whole.
Let me take a little diversion to make my next point.
saw an event manager given a project which was about five times the
spend she was used to. Her well developed buying technique went to
pieces as she gave away large chunks of the budget to suppliers. She was
uncomfortable with such a large pot unspent and solved her feelings of
discomfort by spending unwisely to allocate large amounts.
a similar pattern I have seen among event organisers, particularly
those who do not work continuously. It’s very easy to get seduced by the
details – choosing the menu, getting the invitations designed, sorting
out delegate logistics and so on. In all this activity the really
important stuff can get ignored. Why will your delegates attend, and
what will they take away with them? It’s far too important to be left to
chance. It’s a separate job.
Learn from TED and spend time
constructing a knockout programme tying together your speaker strands
into one overarching story which gives your audience a new experience
and you’ll get vastly better feedback.
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