They say, when you attend an event, and you take away at least five things that you learned – or five people that you met who will potentially play a role in your personal or professional life – then it was a good event for you.
Well, according to that yardstick, Eventex in Sofia was a fabulous event!
Not only have I met lots of great people (speakers, tech providers, attendees, all of them Eventprofs). There are at least five takeaways that will definitely influence the way I go about event management, and they will also have an impact on the way I do consulting and training for event organizers .
What were the most sticky learnings from my personal perspective?
1. Interactive speakers matter more than interactive session formats!
Event organizers in general, and some of my clients in particular, endeavor to raise the level of interaction at their conferences and trade shows – by offering special formats, technical tools, matchmaking services, social media and what have you.
The key drivers of interaction at your event, though, are the presenters themselves and how they contribute with their sessions to the overall objective!
— Chris Penfold (@MexiaChris) 25. Februar 2015
As an organizer, you may come up with the most creative session and format concepts. It all depends on the speakers, though, and their ability (or reluctance) to engage the audience, facilitate networking and spark interaction.
Other than trying to pull out all the stops in finding the best technical tool, app or format, I have the feeling that it makes much more sense to educate, brief and test the speakers when it comes to adding interactive elements to their session.
That is not easy, of course, because not all “experts” in a special area are brilliant and engaging speakers at the same time.
However, by stressing how important it is to interact with your audience and by offering support in how to do that, organizers can reach new levels of engagement.
2. Event ROI is NOT a boring topic – quite the opposite!
I had the pleasure to attend an event before where Elling Hamso was speaking about the Return – On – Investment (ROI) of events – and it opened my eyes on how important it is to start event planning with the ROI in mind.
In Sofia, Victor Neyndorff covered this topic in a compelling session, showing not only how relevant ROI is, but also how you can bring such a topic across in a way that will capture the hearts and minds of the attendees! The core questions for event organizers are
- What should your attendees do differently after the event? and
- Why don’t they do that already?
When you have decent answers to those two questions before designing your event, the outcome will definitely be propelled to the next level!
— Latisha Springer (@TishaEventsMgt) 25. Februar 2015
3. Technical tools for audience interaction can be helpful – or not…
Don’t get me wrong: In Sofia, the technical tools that were used to enhance interaction were used in an appropriate and empathic way.
Not overwhelming the audience, but offering good support for networking.
Notably, the technical tools were Glisser (which I also used for my own presentation on Event ticketing systems), Sli.do (which Juray Holub used for his outstanding session with the bold title “Creating the Future of Events Today”) and Guidebook (the official app provider). You may add Conferize to the deck, the online platform which allowed Eventex delegates to network before, during and after the days in Bulgaria.
Clearly, an event about event technology should present some of the coolest stuff, and the delegates are most probably quite curious to test all that.
There is a thin line, though, between offering tools for enhanced audience engagement and networking – and asking too much both of the speakers and the delegates.
Technology is never an end in itself. It can add value, as long as it supports core objectives of the event. Before implementing sophisticated technology, you should ask yourself as an organizer if there is not an alternative, easier, more human and straightforward way of achieving the same goal.
4. How to be a good host!
Ovanes, Iva and the rest of their team were really great hosts – I have the feeling there must have been several clones of them, because you could see them everywhere, never distressed (at least not apparently), and always smiling.
That is where a good host should be: With their guests, not in a hidden organizers’ cabinet, always approachable and pro-active. Kudos to Ovanes and his colleagues!
I particularly liked ideas like offering group Yoga in the mornings and after the lunch breaks – that got everyone into a relaxed mood, and it kicked off the sessions in style.
5. How can you not design your meetings…?
Meeting design is still a pretty young discipline, and I had the privilege in Sofia to attend a Masterclass by one of the absolute master minds in that field: Eric de Groot from the Netherlands, author of the book “Into the Heart of Meetings”.
Eric made the point that even unconsciously, we take decisions in the field of meeting design that send out messages – if we like them or not.
Having empty chairs in the room transmits the message “There are not enough people here”. Having the usual gap between a speaker on stage and the audience seated in rows creates an atmosphere of a classroom, with the clever omniscient teacher on stage and the stupid pupils in front of him.
During the 4-hour session, Eric got us all into the mode of opening up, of thinking about creative ways to design meetings, play around with seating options and interactive formats (great example of an introduction, great experience of body-voting) and of finding ways to adapt content to be appropriate for live communications.
He conveyed the message that while meeting designers may not be the experts in the actual topic that a meeting is about, they can be the driving forces to package and sell content via live communication.
Funny enough: During the whole 4 hours of his session, there was not a single mention of technology!
Let me finish by giving you the twitter handles of some of the great people I met in Sofia, and that are really worth following – if you have the chance to experience them speak at an event near to you, don’t miss the chance to see them! In no particular order:
- Eric de Groot @mindmeeting
- Ovanes Ovanessian @ovaneso
- Iva Nedelcheva @NedelchevaIva
- David Benitez @dbenitezRAFFA
- Chett Rubinstein @insightxmcto
- Mike Piddock @MikePiddock
- Victor Neyndorff @neyndorff
- Juraj Holub @Juraj_Holub
- Adam Parry @punchtownparry
- Jeremy Nicholas @Jeremy_Nicholas
- Linda Pereira @lindacpl
- Alan Stevens @mediacoach
See? That is a lot more than just five – so this shows what a great experience Sofia was!