Twenty years ago, if you wanted to see an expert speaker in your field give a presentation, you had to go to an industry conference. Likewise, if you wanted to read about new ideas you had to subscribe to a trade magazine. There were really no other options, except possibly a competing trade magazine or conference.
By and large these conference producers and magazine publishers had a captive audience. And whenever you have a captive audience that can’t really leave you, there’s little pressure to innovate. It didn’t matter much if a chunk of your speakers were poor presenters, self-promoters, or simply shallow thinkers, and so organizers didn’t put much effort into making sure they consistently delivered. After all, they had a virtual monopoly on content.
Fast forward to today, and content is everywhere. In fact there’s been a virtual explosion of content, with the proliferation of blogs, YouTube videos, TweetChats, Pinterest boards, Linked In Groups and the like. There’s so much content, that the pendulum has swung 180 degrees in the opposite direction. For many industry professionals, there’s too much content! They can’t possibly keep up with the avalanche.
So what is a conference organizer to do? Well, in a world where content is everywhere, curation is king. The ability to sift through this sea of ideas, and find high quality programming that is the right fit for your audience is now more valuable than ever before. Whereas before attendees came to a conference because there was too little content anywhere else out there, now you can make them come to your conference because there is too much content out there.
If your attendees can rely on you to have your finger on the pulse of what’s being said in your industry, and trust you to filter out all the noise and present you with what’s truly relevant to you, that’s a powerful place to be.
But this doesn’t come without some heavy lifting.
1) You’ve got to do your homework and constantly hunt for new ideas and new thinkers.
2) And once you find them it’s not enough to just send them a speaker agreement. It’s critical to have development calls with them to make sure their content is shaping up the right way, and they’re putting effort into making their presentations compelling and innovative.
3) Further, a good conference organizer should know how much time to assign a given topic, and what presentation format it should take. Topics with multiple viewpoints, for example, are better presented as panels. Speakers who are brilliant but a little too rambling and unclear work better being interviewed on stage than talking by themselves.
Unfortunately, too many conference organizers are still too content to phone it in, and do the minimum necessary to fill up their speaker lineup and call it a day. And among those who are willing to go the extra mile, many are simply not qualified to evaluate speakers properly. They just don’t have the industry insight to know if a speaker is going deep enough, or too deep, in preparing their presentation.
For more information, see our on-demand video class, New Thinking In Content Delivery & Engagement.