Imagine you are selling your house for the first time…
Would you blindly consider any proposals from listing agents that haven’t taken the time to ask you what are your specific objectives? These could be time frame for moving, financial analysis, and potential roadblocks that would prevent the listing from selling. If the agent isn’t able to ask questions than frankly it is unethical for them to prescribe a solution, recommend an accurate listing price for the home to sell, or tell how much the commission would be when it did sell.
Are you in charge of assembling the best possible program?
You may think that asking for as many possible speaker submissions might be the way to go so you can choose from as many new topics out there but keep in mind as a result you are:
- Putting your attendees at risk by advising the wrong alternatives.
- Increasing the labor intensity on your staff.
- Measuring the wrong metric to improve.
If you immediately disagree because you say “We’ve always done conference proposals because that’s the way we have always done it” then I worry about the limited thinking that is crippling your organization and feel sorry for your love life because chances are you aren’t willing to try new things either.
Let’s talk about each of the 3 above challenges and how it effects the value of your conference. Each hinges the decision whether your group remains relevant in the future and/or has more attendees coming back the following year.
Unethical Act #1: Choosing alternatives over objectives
There are 100 + ways (alternatives) to reach the same objective. The problems with most conference RFPs are they ask you to submit your topic as an assumption your alternative is the correct one for the audience members without assessing specific objectives, existing talent/resources, and risks involved with each alternative.
Presenters that recommend alternatives without assessing the needs from the executive or meeting planner are essentially unethically recommending solutions that might not be a good fit for the group. As a result audiences experience information overload and there isn’t really any clarity as to which is the most effective path to success. If the meeting planner accepts proposals without clarifying objectives and having a discussion with the presenter then they are just as guilty if not more because they could be sending the wrong message to their group.
Instead, focus the RFPs according to objectives, the measureable outcomes, tangible & intangible benefits you want the attendees to receive as a result of attending the conference. Then design the program schedule, titles, and descriptions around those results.
Unethical Act #2: Increasing labor intensity
I heard that one specific conference received over 400 proposals from speakers mostly from which are industry experts and amateurs. If it took 3 minutes to read every proposal that is more than 1200 minutes or 50 x 24 hour days to review. Seriously, who has time to do that? Then if you add committees to the decision making process it is no wonder that organizations are strapped for time and scramble down to the wire to get the job done.
Instead, reduce the labor intensity by only identify those who have a current track record to participate in the proposal process. The bigger the conference the small the pool should be to choose from. A quick resource to check credibility is from a presenter’s Linkedin profile because then you can follow up with that individual as to how the presentation went.
Unethical Act #3: Measuring the wrong metric
The RFPs that don’t tell the presenters how they will be evaluated really don’t provide clear direction as to how to craft their program. Similarly, most conference use same day evaluation which measures unnecessary feedback which don’t improve the audience’s condition.
How do you measure the effectiveness of the program?
Is it based more on how people feel when they leave or what they were able to implement as a result?
If your organization is results driven then it is impossible to say the program was a success by using same day evaluations because there is no way the attendees would have time to implement what they learned as result. Furthermore, if they don’t implement then chances are the likely that they will think differently in attending next year because the ROI wasn’t warranted.
Do this instead. Set up an auto-responder for attendees that reinforce the learning objectives from the sessions they attended and include resource links that remind them of what was mentioned in the program. Then after 30 days do the evaluation to see what they implemented. What you will find is that you have trained audience members to click on links that benefit them which will cross over to sell exsiting value propositions in your organization.
Conference attendance in meetings are down across multiple industries. There are more choices between live conferences, online meetings, and social networks. Your group is most likely suffering from information overload because they have access to more now than ever before. Those organizations that create their program on helping their audiences achieve their specific goals along with creating a unique experience will find themselves still in business in the next years to come.
I created the Meeting Planners Guide to Marketing and Technology that will help you sell your events better. The cost to download is free and there are video tutorials on how to use software, audio interviews from expert meeting planners, and ideas to use in the planning process. Download now