The Art of Un-Conferencing
So, as the Marcom Head, you’ve done everything right.
You followed the rules. You’ve hosted a conference very much on the lines of memorable conferences past. You’ve kept the ambience very ‘corporate’. Your theme’s antiseptically kosher. In fact you even insisted that the Chairman preferred a sober approach. And, to top it all you stretched your budget to host the conference in that fancy seaside resort that other companies only dream of!
Yet, you seem to be staring at an undeniable dud.
Why is it that your colleagues dawdled into the hall, their attention fixed on their phones desperately looking for something to catch their attention? And did you actually spot one of the vertical heads gently dozing off in the second row? It’s true you spent a great deal of time on the menu but did that really explain why the crowd charged out of the hall like bulls in a ring, looking for a way out?
Why?? Where did you go wrong?
Well, my friend the answer is simple.
There is only rule in life
The rule of change.
Every technique du jour will lose its effectiveness over time. It might have worked brilliantly back in the day (which could be as recent as last year, mind you) but over time, fatigue – that insidious slow growing cancer takes over.
Back in 1998 a gentleman called Siimon Reynolds, a mentor to business owners wrote a book called When they zig you zag. The subtitle read How to achieve success, health and happiness by doing the opposite to everyone else! It’s a small book with tips on how to be successful, but what has resonated down the years in countless boardrooms is the succinct wisdom of his book’s title- When they zig, you zag.
In other words, change courses constantly. This however is not a template to be used mindlessly as a panacea, but sometimes it can be the crucial lifeline that a gasping event needs.
Be unique and remarkable to achieve your goals
Being different for the sake of being different is going to end up making you look frivolous. But if you have a goal, then turning convention upside down can be very rewarding indeed.
Let’s start with the theme. Instead of stringing a couple of ponderous words together, look for a concept that resonates deeply with all your attendees – it could be sport, religion, anything. Tie that up with your strategy and bingo; you’re on your way!
A strategic surprise, at every turn
Then look at every element that contributes to the conference – the speakers, their topics, the set, the badges, the mailers everything and turn them all on their head. Surprise your colleagues right from the very first mailer. You are sure to pique their interest.
And most importantly make sure you have a surprise for them half way through the event. The more interactive it is, the better. Bring in a sports legend or an unexpected speaker like a religious head for a sales conference or even have an activity that takes them out of their comfort zone. Let them have a cook-out for instance.
See, it’s not complicated. Just different that’s all. As one of our clients delightedly pointed out after a hugely successful event, “I guess what we did this time was strategic zig sagging!”
Yes, to be memorable, choose something that’s sincere instead of trying to emulate someone else’s winning difference. Then it can be termed ‘strategic’. Anything else is just recklessness!