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Inexpert advice

Richard John champions another subversive approach

While the conference sector is so often a case of ‘me too’ in terms of events, sometimes it’s fun to do something completely different. Steve Chapman did, and the results offer organisers a host of lessons. 

Chapman created ‘Inexpert 2018’, which had its first outing in May. It was designed as a not-for-profit social experiment, exploring what might happen if speakers were encouraged to bring their ‘Inexpertise’ to the event. 

If the idea seems crazy, be aware that speaker slots were snapped up, and the event sold out within days. Those who took the stage weren’t lacking in experience.

The audience feedback was positive. “The organisers created with great skill a huge safe space for people to be inexpert… to be not good enough, to make mistakes and celebrated inexpertise and not knowing in whatever form it emerged” and “I was intrigued by the creative space that emerged between the audience and the speakers with multiple moments of unplanned gesture and spontaneous response… these could have been real moments of unease, but the intention was collaborative not competitive” were just two pieces of feedback.

Chapman described the event as “a social experiment disguised as a conference… a gathering that celebrated the power of inexpertise and not knowing”. His view was that, as we usually go to hear speakers with knowledge and answers, Inexpert asked what would happen if precisely the opposite happened.

What are the lessons for those organisers and planners from ‘Inexpert?’ My favourite saying has always been ‘there’s no failure, only feedback.’ Ask yourself when you last tried something new. At your next event, what would happen if the marketing director presented on finance, or the HR consultant talked about sales strategy? 

Here’s another surprise; Inexpert’s first outing was also its last outing. “Part of the experiment was to intentionally do something subversively brilliant only once,” explained Chapman. A potential gap in the market for another courageous organiser, perhaps?