Preventing Post-conference Whiplash
When attending a conference, I’m not just listening to the material. I’m also looking to see how the average audience member can take the idea and put it into action.
Now that the Harvard Business Review (HBR) has declared that design is a strategy and that design thinking has come of age, conference talks are more inspiring than ever covering topics like being a good design leader, aligning design strategy with business strategy and embracing the latest trends such as big data and virtual reality.
Attendees leave these talks ready to take on the world and implement all that they learned, but when they make it back to their workplaces they quickly realize that they need to learn more about the topic before putting a plan into action or that their reality is not quite ready for the big idea. This is disheartening for them and a lost opportunity for the design community to spread the latest best practices.
The good news it that we can change the outcome by implementing tried and tested approaches from the business world; approaches that will reduce this feeling of post-conference whiplash and improve the odds that attendees will be able to make their design dreams come true.
TD Ameritrade Institutional hosts an annual conference for Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs). Not only do the 3,000–4,000 conference attendees receive session specific white papers which allow them to revisit the topics whenever they need to, they also have the opportunity to visit the Business Consulting Lounge and speak with a Subject Matter Expert (SME) who can help them explore a variety of topics at a deeper level than an individual session would allow.
I fully understand that this a pretty high caliber, well funded conference, but the approach can be applied to any event.
Speakers… Your audiences love the references that you share during your talks. Make it easier for them by providing them a post-talk cheat sheet through an easy to access channel. (maybe Twitter) Not only will this help them, it will help you keep your audience focused on you (not their notebook) if they know that this helpful tool is coming.
Conference organizers… Consider having Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the audience who are willing to continue the conversation 1:1 or in groups between sessions or over lunch. The SMEs could be pre-selected volunteers from your or your speaker’s personal network who have experience that aligns with your topics. If there is gap in your personal networks, poll your conference attendees at the time of registration or separately to see who would be willing to provide some coaching and which topics they have the expertise to support.
Yes, it takes a bit of effort, planning and coordination, but I hope that at least some of you can see that it’s worth it.