Planners should remember as much effort should go into the social side of meetings as sessions.
By BRYAN HOLLIDAY
During the 2008 democratic primary elections in America between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, a commentator was asked how he would describe the difference between the two candidates vying for their party’s endorsement. He replied: “If you want information, choose Clinton: if you want inspiration, choose Obama”.
In the rush to endow every activity with an ROI or a strong vocational purpose, we’re perhaps forgetting the importance of the word “serendipity”. We all attend conferences because we’re influenced by the subject-matter or the destination. However, the best conferences that I’ve ever attended have given me ideas and suggestions that could never have been foreshadowed by studying the published program in detail.
As a PCO, I’m always encouraging clients to make sure that all their proposed social events foster a great deal of networking.
In the second volume of his autobiography, ubiquitous Stephen Fry says that “Wine can be wiser than ink and banter is often better than books”.
The perfect example of this approach was taken at the recent MEA annual conference in Darwin. Opening plenary speaker, Nigel Collin, mounted his motorbike in Sydney two weeks before the start of the event. He hoped to interview interesting people along the way who would illustrate his belief that Australians are incredibly ingenious.
He had no idea who he would meet or what they would say but he had an intuitive feeling that something would happen. His optimism was repaid in spades and he was able to share his stories during his extremely informative and entertaining presentation. Needless to say, his talk ignited conversations throughout the event which contributed enormously to the conference’s success.
So let’s all be bold and acknowledge that conferences are often forums for the unknown and as organisers the best we can hope for is that we become midwives to wisdom.