February 26, 2019 |
There was a study by the Melbourne Convention Bureau which concluded that over 80% of respondents believed that meeting face to face was the future. People like to socialise, press the flesh and enjoy that warm glow of familiarity and inclusion. Did I mention the free lunch? So whilst the world is going online, conferences, which benchmark themselves as the bastions of learning, appear to be firmly voting to remain offline.
But do they run the risk of becoming obsolete? Surely people are tired of reverentially listening to the same old bloke droning on about how important he is. As the consumer changes from the experience to the value economy and corporate jobs become less dependable, is it not time for the conference industry to change?
The F&B industry, like all industries, has a staggering number of events from large global gatherings to smaller networking events. And every promoter is trying to find their own USP within this congested space. Some have done it well, especially those who have looked outside of their own steering committees and boards to develop a product that is outwardly facing.
Tomorrow’s conference will be in a room but the way in which it operates could be significantly different and in line with these five key tenants.
Conferences are data collectors masquerading as places of learning. I am not saying that this is wrong, what I am saying is that maybe the organisers should come clean about this instead and allow the data to be accessible to all.
Adding features to a package to inflate the price does not represent value. What should be valued is time and the conference should provide the maximum amount of learning per available minute not just a trip to another over-designed concept and a free glass of wine.
I understand that sponsors want media coverage, but allowing people with a lot of cash and nothing to say simply devalues the event. Providing a platform for self-appointed industry leaders, armed with corporate war chests amazing their audience with anecdotes of their success does not equal authenticity. They should be replaced by entrepreneurs who may have succeeded and equally may have failed. They all have a story to tell that is far more authentic, real and valuable.
Conferences are still very one-dimensional. You sit and listen whilst I speak then afterwards we can all go for a drink and I can tell you again how great I am. You can have my business card and then I will ignore your emails and calls until next year, when I will profusely apologise and tell you how busy I have been. Change the record to being more collaborative – create smaller workshop-style events with groups of people engaging in stimulating dialogue that reaches the core of the issues they are facing.
Learning should be for everyone and events that purport to be industry leaders should make their findings available to all, not just to those who can afford it. Have corporate sponsorship and paid entrance for sure, but then allow the masses who are eager to learn but can’t afford to attend to learn too. Create downloadable learning packs for free – your sponsors will be happy with the reach.
I don’t expect the backslapping to end any time soon, but the question remains what you are paying for? If you are paying for three days meeting old colleagues, learning how someone in a country with totally different laws and cultures has made an amazing success of a new concept or if you want to be bussed to a restaurant handing out free canapes and wine for you to criticise then the old school way is for you.
But if you want to be part of a community that actively shares information, provides meaningful insights that you can apply to your business and learn from people who have actually made something out of nothing then maybe it is time for a new school of thinking. Offline of course.
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