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Why human behaviour should be driving your conference design

Oxford Dictionary describes a conference as a ‘formal meeting of people with a shared interest’. We’d argue people are what makes or breaks a conference. So why is it we don't spend more time designing our conferences with people in mind? Instead focusing on the technology, or the venue, or the topics.

We ask people to sit still up to 2 hours at a time. We expect participants to passively listen and absorb. We bore them with the same tired information without truly understanding what the market is challenged by or is looking for opportunities in. We recycle speakers whose perspectives have already been heard countless times (online & offline).

And we wonder why we get feedback along the lines of "heard it all before" or "I wish there were new interesting speakers"? Is that really the impression you want your participants to leave with? Especially when a totally different outcome is easily possible.

We need to take a step back and ponder: Why do people join conferences? From our experience it’s to be enlightened, energised, and to connect with their community.

So start with the format. Look at the session length - who ever said a conference has to have a morning, lunch and afternoon break only?* Intersperse "heavy" sessions with mental breaks. Weave carefully planned networking sessions into the programme rather than just relying on the breaks.

Curate your presenters and panelists based on in-depth research of who is leading the industry today, not on who spoke last year and was highly rated. And make sure they all agree to insert some form of audience participation into their sessions, inviting discussion, debate or sharing of experiences - either with the whole audience or their immediate group.

UX has been a hot topic for a while, but sorely missing from the conference world – let’s put user experience front & centre of your next conference design.

*We're big fans of creativity guru Fredrik Haren and his simple philosophy - 'Seek the Tweak and Take Away the Fundamental' - this applies perfectly to the conference world. Check him out at:

Let's inspire your community - Team UC


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