Tag: Conferences

I know I’ve touched on conferences before, but as I sit on a flight out to my next biggest conference – I figured I’d dust off some of my thoughts around conferences and their relative value in Corporate America. This will be the biggest conference I’ve ever been on the hook for – almost 900 participants.

My thoughts:

  • It’s really hard to get 900 people on the same page without some great materials, strategy, and energy
  • Planning for an event like this should really start 12 months out; I unfortunately probably did 80% of the pre-work within the last 90 days (partially my fault/procrastination, partially at the discretion of other team members/senior leaders)
  • Having 900 people is awesome because I got to engage a production company to support things like stage design/setup, audio/visual, and other items
  • Having 900 people sucks because organizing that sort of chaos is extremely difficult on the people logistics side (i.e. how do 900 people all get a bathroom break in 15 minutes if bathrooms around the facility only have capacity for 4-5 at a time??)
  • The biggest challenge in this sort of endeavor is making sure everyone’s voices are heard
    • This is my job every day, and it is simultaneously the single most rewarding and the single most frustrating thing about my job
    • Inevitably, many voices will not be heard, or will not be voiced
    • Even for those who are “heard” – there is still a very good chance the voice may be ignored by competing priorities or varied direction that is preferred by senior leaders
  • I love and hate conference planning and execution at the same time – I really mostly just wish I had the ability to care a little less about the details

At least this one’s in Vegas – wish me luck!!

Til Next Time,

Michael

I was at a wedding this past weekend, and it made me recall a parallel I have discussed with several members of my team. I thought it appropriate to share here. For anyone who works in conference/meeting facilitation, you may especially agree.

Anytime I have to plan a conference (no matter how big or small), I always have to tell myself “it’s just like a wedding”. That helps me never get too high, too low, too excited, too worried. Here is why I think this parallel works:

  • There are inevitably things that come up which you cannot control
  • The room will be too hot or too cold
  • The room will have audio/visual hookups that don’t work with certain equipment
  • It may be too bright/too dark
  • Someone will forget something or be unable to bring something for which they are depended upon
  • Your budget (whether it’s time, money, or energy) will never afford all of the things you’d like to have (“nice to haves”)
  • Prioritizing the “must haves” is incredibly more important than worrying about “nice to haves”
  • You will always have a momentary crisis (for some length of time) right before the event where you wish you had a million more hours to button up a million last-minute items
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY – more often than not, it all goes off without a hitch

So, next time you have to organize or facilitate any kind of meeting or conference – just tell yourself “it won’t be that bad” and “at the end of the day, the couple usually says ‘I do'”. Just like the team usually says “I do” after your meeting!

Til Next Time,

Michael

Conference_meeting

I’ve been pulled in last minute to help facilitate a two-day offsite conference with senior leaders this week. While it’s both a blessing and a curse that I’ve done this so many times that I’m not half bad at it, I do know that it is a major stress for other people. That’s just the shiny side and the dull side of my coin I suppose. Today, though, I decided to write down some words of “inspiration” for my facilitator brethren which I plan to deliver to them tomorrow night before it all goes down in case it will calm their nerves.

And so I present to you, the 6 truths of all conferences:

  1. The room is always too small, too big, too hot, too cold, has horrible food, doesn’t have enough food (and on and on and on, you get it – just accept that this will happen and it is outside of your control)
  2. 60% of the people in the room are just there because they’re supposed to be there; 20% will poo-poo anything you say/suggest/do; 20% will help corral the herd and energetically support/get everyone back on course (Which faction will you join? Only you can decide that)
  3. No matter how much you prepare, there is 1 topic that you will overprepare for that is breezed through (Don’t sweat it, consider this a blessing from the Conference Gods)
  4. No matter how much you prepare, there is 1 topic that you ultimately underprepare for; this topic will take twice as long as you allocate and you still won’t “solve the problem” (Figure out a time and place to regroup, this is not the last you’ll hear on this one)
  5. There is always 20% of the material that gets washed away by the tide of time management; you should know ahead of time what these topics are so you can rearrange the schedule on the fly and de-prioritize these sections/remove from the agenda to pick up time (Know what’s important and make good decisions)
  6. If you do not have a consolidated recap of what was discussed/decided, and next steps, you may as well not have even met; you will point back to this information for years to come – so you better make sure you like what you get (Remind everyone what you did and create a documentation trail)

Til Next Time,

Michael

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