Clarity, Action and Traction for your Conference
Do you know that feeling when you leave a conference totally hyped?
If you do, you probably also know the feeling of waking up a week later realising that you’ve done nothing to implement what you learnt and contact the people you met at the conference. Life gets in the way, and your good intentions so often count for nothing.
It’s not unusual for me to leave a conference with a smorgasbord of ideas to follow up on, people I want to follow up with, changes I want to make, changes I want to make in my work, and ideas I want to pass on to clients and colleagues.
While I’m at the event, I make sure I make the most of it because I want to feel my time and money are well spent, but unless I make an accountability plan, it is far too easy to break the promises I make to myself.
Here’s the thing: those of us who are conference organisers owe it to our attendees to help them to avoid ‘conference fizzle’.
We need to put as much energy into the run-up and follow-through as we put into making a great event.
I’ve recently consulted to several events and have tested how to avoid ‘conference fizzle’.
Here’s how to help our conference attendees get the most out of the conference and get great traction afterwards. Think in Threes.
Think ‘Clarity, Action and Traction’.
Then think ‘Before, During and After’.
Draw a table with ‘before, during and after’ on the Y-axis, and ‘clarity, action and traction’ on the X-axis. Then populate it with ideas to help with your planning.
1. BEFORE THE CONFERENCE.
The three things you need to think about before the conference are:
Help attendees set their intentions well before the conference, gaining clarity about what they want out of it.
Suggest actions they can take to prepare for the conference. They might want to look up and contact speakers before the event or make connections with people they are going to meet there.
A pre-conference survey works wonders to get people thinking before they arrive and realising the potential of what can emerge from the conference. The survey can assist organisers in massaging the content to ensure it will meet the expectations of the participants.
2. DURING THE CONFERENCE.
When people arrive with clarity about what they want, the organisers have a better chance of succeeding. You need to help attendees to remain clear about what they want and move towards action they will take after the conference.
Even if you have done a pre-conference survey, you need to check in on expectations so that the group feels a joint responsibility to achieve what the chohort at the conference wants to achieve.
A simple version is to get people to find someone they haven’t met before and to discuss their expectations. They contribute a summary to the facilitators, who document and summarise expectations so that everyone knows what the audience wants. Done well, this can contribute to the outcome.
Small groups to refer to.
The conference outcomes will be richer for everyone if attendees have a small group that they regularly connect with briefly throughout the conference.
Themed ‘scraping’ of information.
From the expectations list, a number of themes will emerge. Each participant can choose one theme that is important to them and ‘scrape’ all the information at the conference (or look for that theme in everything that happens). They compile a list of tips and ideas on their theme which they share with the organisers so that it can be redistributed to the attendees during or after the conference. This ‘layered learning’ technique is powerful and useful to everyone.
3. AFTER THE CONFERENCE.
These suggestions start in the last few minutes of the conference and continue for two to four weeks afterwards.
Letters to self.
Each person writes a ‘letter to self’ to be sent to them a month later. The letter reminds them of their intentions in the heat of the moment at the end of the conference.
Each person gets an accountability buddy to check in within the last five minutes of the conference and weekly for four weeks, to help them stick to the promises they make to themselves.
A four-week challenge.
Once a week for four weeks send the participants an email reminding them to look out for something that was key to the conference. This reduces the speed of drop off of attention to the learning and excitement of the conference.
Here’s a final tip: if you implement just some of these suggestions your conference attendance will experience more clarity, action and traction than most attendees at conferences. Try it. I’d love to know how you go.