« Custom Projects, Interstitials, & Award Shows | Main | How Not to Use a Great Speaker »

Who Said Conferences are About Learning?

Posted on December 29, 2008

Ten years ago MPI completed a study for making meetings more effective and concluded with: “Meeting planners can play an instrumental role in addressing areas that need to be improved by increasing their knowledge of how to institute change within an organization and the proper role of education.”

The research found a tremendous gap between what meeting planners think is important about a conference and what management thinks is important. The key meeting success factors of senior managers were:

  1. Clear sense of organizational priorities
  2. Concrete action plans
  3. Improved interaction
  4. Important messages are remembered
  5. Greater productivity from learning
  6. Improved motivation and inspiration
  7. Greater commitment to the organization

It is very clear that managers who pay for the bills are looking for a bottom line return to the organization.

Change takes much more than learning and I often wonder if this is a core reason why we struggle with issues such as measuring the return on conference investments. Management is looking for change and yet all they see is learning. If this study was completed in 2008, would the results be any different? I doubt it. I have spoken at numerous conferences to realize that far too few attempt to go beyond the traditional ‘speaker as expert speaks at the audience’ model.  

The challenge for meeting designers is to dig into the corporate or association issues to define what can be influenced, changed, promoted, or advanced to benefit participants. This can reflect personal or business development issues. Some events focus on bringing company values to life while others are intended to prompt sales people to sell more through new approaches.

Perhaps the place to start the planning for your next association or corporate conference is with the research. Use these findings to brainstorm how you can use the conference to create results in more effective ways. For example:

  • What are the organizational priorities that participants will need to have a clear grasp of?
  • What could participants focus on to create concrete action plans during the event?
  • Improved interaction begins with networking objectives: who needs to meet who and why?
  • What are the important messages that should be remembered?
  • What specific areas need greater productivity from learning that is possible at the conference?
  • Why is there a need for improved motivation and inspiration?
  • What stops people from having a greater commitment to the organization?

The answers to these questions will lead to new insights for the design of the event. They will help you answer--why is our next conference important?


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Who Said Conferences are About Learning? :


Mike Redcliff

Well it is known for any one in the industry that content helps you get what you aim for.
Conference planners have to find the right amount of business and mix it with little bit of pleasure.
Conference can and should be more fun not so dull


The comments to this entry are closed.

Previous Gurus

January 2009

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31