Times are changing and with it attendance patterns and expectations at conferences that defy tradition. A younger generation of time-savvy and results-orientated delegates are more demanding in their expectation. Adhering to outdated methods to attract audiences, amounts to ignoring new trends at your peril. This formed the subject of an interesting article by Nigel Collins, an Australian content director and presenter in the meeting and events industry published in meeting industry periodical MiceNet. In it he states that conference delegates in 2015 have a completely different set of expectations and needs than those of participants as little as five years ago. This is not surprising when one thinks about it in a world, where thought leadership is delivered in 18 minute bites, where opinions take only 144 characters on average, when anything can be learned on-line, where the best conversations are unplanned, and where everybody has a voice and wants to be heard. He reminds us as event organisers that in 2015 we need to understand that today’s conference goers do not want just great content, they want it fast. They don’t just want to be told what needs to be done, they want to know how to do it. They don’t just want to network, they want to have meaningful conversations leading to ongoing relationships. They don’t want to sit for two days of keynote presentations and panel sessions, they want to be involved, engaged and moreover contribute. He reminds us that audience driven content is the key to good conferencing and that the talking head is dead. Long live the two-way conversation. Short sharp talks are the order of the day as we take in information faster than ever before. The trend is all about delivering shorter and more meaningful presentations. Shorter in Nigel’s language, means punchier, engaging and memorable.
Effective conferences are about changing behaviours. The art is to put frameworks in place to keep the momentum going long after the conference has finished with the aim that lessons learned will be lasting and that the knowledge acquired will be put to good use.
To initiate the new format of conferencing to best advantage may require external assistance. The New Zealand Association Resource Centre is able to assist with advice and direction to suitable facilitation services and would welcome enquiries in this regard.