Once upon a time a well known retailer was working hard to recover from a slump and wanted it’s store leaders to stop competing against one another and instead share their best ideas and resources. A noble and wise message.
During the months of build up their conference agency designed, refined and honed an event to inspire their top 500. The AV team produced a phenomenal stage and set. There was even a wardrobe department with a seamstress on hand. The budget ran to several hundred thousand pounds.
On paper the programme looked impressive and inspiring. Until the management team took to the stage, all of them! Each ignoring their five minute allocation and instead sharing their perspective for ten, fifteen and in one case twenty minutes!
All were reasonably accomplished speakers, one or two were entertaining but none had rehearsed and they had certainly not compared notes to avoid repeating themselves. Each extolled the value of collaboration, yet their three hour marathon to a post lunch audience in a darkened room simply illustrated that they hadn’t worked together.
Just after 6pm the jaded audience emerged, two hours late somewhat less than inspired.
If you are organising a conference, start with what your delegates will feel, not with what they see. Bright lights have a momentary impact but a well structured message with audience participation can last a lifetime.