Association Congress

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Why a conference is a service and not a product

Conferences need to change. You’ll hear people saying that content has to be devised and even delivered by attendees, with a little bit of help from the organiser. And here! here! I say.
Conferences have to be innovative in terms of content, style and format. They have to deliver learning over a longer period than just the days they physically take place. They have to be more enjoyable and they have to deliver real value and Return on Investment. Delegates, speakers and the chairman have to be more engaged. And I echo all those sentiments.
We are fortunate that as an industry we still have time to decide our fate and we must decide what that fate is; before others choose it for us.
I have no doubt that our future is a bleak one if we stick to the same old formats that have served us badly for decades; if we continue to churn out conferences that are almost impossible to measure the success of: well apart from the financial reward to the organiser. We don't have a future if we continue to organise conferences that are just good enough to stop delegates complaining.   
“We have to think of a conference as a service, rather than a product” - me
When I speak to other organisers in the UK I hear anecdotal stories of conference attendance tailing off. Tales of large organisations refusing to sanction travelling for specific weeks of the month, or days of the week and the impact that is having on bookings that, in the past were guaranteed. I hear the pain of the price of attendance fees dropping at the same time as venue charges rise. And I know now is the time for our industry to act.
If you agree, can I suggest you join my little but growing group on Linkedin we plan to do something about it!

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