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Creativity in the conference world – do we really need it?

We’ve been wracking our brains as to why there are still so many average conferences out there. We’re convinced it’s not deliberate on the part of the organisers. Why would any organisation spend precious time, energy and money only to see their event flounder, commercially and experientially?

Ultimately, we believe it’s because of the dangerous “build it and they will come” mentality. Too much attention is paid to just filling a programme and checking boxes without truly considering the impact a conference could have on a community. And that only comes from doing the necessary hard yards with discovering what that is, and then figuring out how to actually deliver on it.

For starters, it’s clear that many event organisers don’t have a clue what their audience wants or needs in exchange for their precious time and attention. Nor do they deliver it in a creative way that engages and elicits the right outcomes.

The creativity starts with talking to your market. More than that, researching with the market is the actual thing you need to do; and no, we don’t mean send a survey!

Your stakeholders often don’t know what they don’t know. Meaning it’s down to the experience of the conference producer to interpret and extrapolate.

Here’s just one recent example: the marine (ship owning) industry was (and still is!) struggling with meeting challenging upcoming environmental and emissions regulations; using alternative fuels is a recognised way to comply with these regulations. However, it’s not simply a case of going to a different fuel supplier and getting a ‘greener’ fuel. This challenge could only be solved by engaging the entire ecosystem – fuel suppliers, infrastructure providers, equipment suppliers and end-users. The industry found itself in a ‘chicken and egg’ situation.

Through clever questioning and the resulting creative approach to the delivered programme, participants didn’t just learn, but left the conference with tangible actions to implement, together with their fellow participants.

The key that led to such an impactful outcome? Lateral thinking and the resulting creative solution offered up by the conference producer. Sadly, most don’t see conference production as a creative discipline. As a consequence, like many other creative industries, it’s grossly undervalued.

The consequences of this are plain to see. An endless roster of pro-forma conferences - what we call “death by PowerPoint” - that barely shift the needle in terms of their value and contribution, pumped out by inexperienced individuals that don’t really know what they’re doing.

To add insult to injury, they are often accompanied by average marketing and promotional campaigns that lead to fatigue among the prospective audience, resulting in a tendency for them to ignore every event - even the better ones!

What amazes us more though, is their ability to “survive”! (It actually kind of frustrates us ... There are some truly bad events out there, yet people still join. Why? Vote with your feet, people!)

Take a stand and make sure your next conference programme exceeds expectations (as mentioned, right now, the bar is pretty low, so it shouldn’t be too difficult!).

If you don’t know how, we’re always here to help.

Let’s inspire your community

- Team UC


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