speakers that I really want to learn from. And more than anything, all I want to do is to sit down and listen to them, to learn from them. In the midst of all of that, you start to plug in these interactive exercises that are not smoothly handled. They are not done in a way that makes it feel natural. My pet peeve of the conference industry is this
prescribed approach where interaction amounts to putting you at a table of people, and then ask- ing them to go around and give introductions to see what your favorite brand of cereal is. That’s not interactive. That’s weird. The problem is that there’s no opt-in for something like that, and there’s no opt-out. All I can do is to sit at the table and have this weird conversation with people. When what I would really like to be doing is learn- ing from those amazing speakers that you have. So don’t automatically go to interaction and
say, “This is going to happen, because we’re not going to have speakers who just stand up and lec- ture at you the whole time.” That’s fine, but what if I would have gotten so much more out of the speakers, and I got absolutely nothing out of sit- ting at a table telling people my favorite cereal?
Respect Their Sense of Time DS We are seeing a trend towards shorter ses- sions. You know, in the old days it was an hour and a half, and if you could not carry an hour and a half with a group you were not considered a good pre- senter or a good speaker. Now, we have kept some of our sessions to about an hour or less. We also, [last] year, did 20-minute sessions. Those were very popular. I think it is just part of our culture and society
now as we are all becoming ADD-ish, if you will. And I think that the 20-minute, the 30-minute presentation is going to be the presentation that is really the future. As a presenter myself — I have presented at more than 100 different conferences over the years — I see the timeline changing. I still feel to set up a really good presentation and to carry people through on communicating a good, solid message you need an hour sometimes — to take them through some trends, some case studies, make a few friends, and tell a few stories. Our goal is, once you attend our event, if you do
not have a pile of notes that you can go back home with and start implementing immediately, we did not do our job.
Conscious At this moment I knew it was not going to be a boring conference: It happened just before I was to go on stage to deliver a keynote. I was so moved to tears by the prior program that mascara dripped on my lavender blouse. And I didn’t care. I wasn’t alone. For the first time in the conference, many of the 3,000 nurse executives in the audience were up on their feet cheering and hugging each other.
The serious-looking nurse I’d sat down next to was now blowing kisses to the diminutive, elderly woman standing on stage who was being honored by the conference president. Our honoree looked like the proverbial deer caught in headlights.
What had happened? Two months before the conference, at my suggestion, every member received an email that read, “If you send us the name of the book that has most influenced your work as a nurse and the author by Sept. 30, you will get a peek preview, by email, of the Top 10 list from the collective submissions from you and your colleagues.”
‘We always believe in throwing good parties on both nights [of the conference]. ... It is called social media, but we like to be real social.’
It turns out that the woman on stage was the long-admired, surviving co-author of a required textbook for nurses training. Only when the members received their peek preview email of results did they realize how many of their peers felt as strongly as they did about the usefulness of that book in their career. Thus, they were primed to cheer when the author appeared on stage to be honored.
The conferences that best leverage shared learning and relationship-building will thrive, whilst others will wilt away or lose their attendees to competition.
— Kare Anderson
Excerpted from “Make Your Conference the Centerpiece for a Tight-Knit Community,” at Forbes.com. Read the full post at convn.org/ anderson-community.