Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bottoms on Seats – How Do You Make That Memorable?

The participant’s journey at a large-scale conference can be an interesting one. People travel to the venue, they walk into a bustling and colourful conference venue (exhibitions, restaurants, meeting spaces, and all), then they walk into their first of many small workshop rooms and basically sit there (different small rooms of course) for 75% of the conference. The room size might change, the speakers might change, and still, most of the conference goer’s experience can easily be sitting in seats listening. Research shows that retention rates from listening to presentations are low and generally decline over time. Not to mention the fact that when you sit shoulder to shoulder in a room you rarely get to know whom you are sitting beside. In a plenary keynote presentation last September, I asked a group of 300 people to raise their hand if they knew both of the people they were sitting between. Only a few people raised their hands. This was on Day 3 of the Conference.

We spend a lot of energy thinking about communication to conference participants and the media around the event to make it colourful, interesting and engaging; how can we make sure that this does not stop at the workshop door? After all, that is where most people spend their Congress-going time. Believe me, I know, I am sitting in a Conference planning workshop myself today…

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