Who needs a conference agenda?
By Mark Pepler, MD Pepler Lee Events
How many conferences have you returned from in the last few years feeling it was a valuable use of your time? Be honest. Because, from my point of view, the majority of attendees at conferences these days seem completely disengaged.
And perhaps that’s no surprise.
You’ve been “asked” to attend by a senior manager, you would much rather be somewhere, anywhere else and are distracted by the huge ‘to do’ list that awaits you back in the office.
There’s no denying that the one-legged motivational speaker, who has climbed Everest, completed 100 Ironman Triathlons and run twice as far around America as Forrest Gump, is an inspiration – but how exactly is this intrepid explorer going to help you tackle the problems your business and industry are facing?
Naturally you then spend the entire time looking at your phone, sending work emails and catching up on the latest gossip from Love Island (yes, you’re that bored) waiting for the bar to open.
Too often it becomes a huge waste of time for you and a poor return on your organisation’s investment -whether they’ve paid for you to be there or put on the event themselves.
But what if there was a different approach? A fresh viewpoint? A new perspective?
I have been in events industry for 25 years this year and was recently asked by a client what truly makes a great event.
Well, at the risk of descending into business word bingo, it is one that you feel truly engaged with. An event that you come away from, feeling inspired and empowered, with an entirely different perspective to the way you approach life and business.
Dramatic, I know. Nevertheless at Pepler Lee Events we feel a truly great event can achieve all those things and more. All with a little touch of imagination and inspiration from yourselves!
And the first hurdle to overcome in creating this experience is tackling the apathy and lack of engagement that, let’s face it, most attendees display.
The “No agenda” conference concept
What’s our magical approach? Well, we have created the “No agenda” conference concept. That’s right, you heard me correctly - a conference where there is no agenda!
An event where you arrive with no idea as to what you are going to talk about, who will say what, why or when.
….here’s the twist – YOU set the agenda, create the content, manage the production, select the food and choose the entertainment. Not your managers, not your trade association or training body but you.
What could possibly be more engaging than a conference you have created yourself? It certainly beats an event hashtag to include in a tweet and a feedback email, days after the event, asking if the vol au vents were to your liking.
Design Thinking methodology
How exactly does a no-agenda work? Well the corner stone of the no agenda conference concept is Design Thinking. As you are probably aware, design thinking is a methodology that provides a solution-based approach to problem solving.
It’s a highly effective method of tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by understanding the human needs involved and re-framing the problem in human-centric ways.
This is achieved by brainstorming ideas, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing – which pretty much describes the approach of the no agenda conference.
Don’t worry, you or your staff aren’t completely left to their own devices. Throughout the event we have a range of expert facilitators on hand who will not only take you through the design thinking process but will also assist with opening your mind, body and soul through mediation, mindfulness and spiritualisation.
What does the no agenda conference concept achieve?
By offering the delegates, rather than organisers, the opportunity to dictate proceedings it enables them to tell you about the challenges you and your organisation face at all levels.
It also gives you the unique opportunity to find out, at the ground level, how your staff think and feel about the company, how they fit into it and how your clients’ perceive you or your association.
It’s a cliché but most organisations really are only as good as their own staff.
The annual conference is often the only opportunity to have a proper exchange of views and gain their input.
Don’t waste that opportunity by boring them rigid and talking ‘at’ them – really grab the bull by the horns by empowering them to determine the direction of not only the annual conference but of the business for the months and years to come.
Scared? Nervous? Think about what the outcomes would and could be for you, your empowered staff and organisation.