It’s imperative to lay good foundations for your meeting in the first year to ensure growth in the future, explains Nigel Collin.

There’s an old Zen story of a wealthy man who wanted to build a new house. He wanted a three storey dwelling so he could look out over his land and marvel at its beauty; more importantly, he wanted three storeys because the higher one lived the higher one’s status.

And so he contracted highly skilled builders to build his beautiful home. Being a busy man himself he then left them to do what it is they do and set off on his business travels. Upon his return several weeks later he decided to see how they had progressed.

To his horror he found that they had only started on the ground floor. ‘Why have you not begun work on the top floor?’ he cried. The builders of course explained to the wealthy man that they must start at the bottom before they could begin to move up to the next floor and ultimately the top floor. But he wasn’t happy because he didn’t want the other floors, he only wanted and desired the third floor. And so he sacked the builders.

Working on a conference can often be like that. A conference organiser may have a vision to build and grow a conference over three consecutive years but want it to be the biggest, the most talked about and most profitable event ever in year one. They may want to jam every possible idea into the program but as a result nothing stands out or works as well as it could. Their team talks about and commits to presenters and speakers before truly defining and nutting out the objective and what message they are trying to get across.

One of the biggest pitfalls in building a solid, viable and ripper of a conference is wanting to jump to the third floor too soon. Just because a conference isn’t the biggest, most talked about, or profitable in year one, doesn’t mean it’s not the best it can be. Focus on getting it as good as it can be at whatever stage or level you’re at with whatever resources you have.

How to get started

1 Be honest with where you are at

If you’re at year one in a three-year conference strategy, then be comfortable with the fact that you are in building mode and create the best year one you can.

2 It’s not a question of size or resources

If you have limited resources and can’t do what you really want to do then get creative and do the very best you can with what you have.

3 Cull the list

Get rid of any notion of doing those ideas that are out of reach at this stage. Don’t necessarily get rid of the ideas, just the notion of doing them now if you’re not ready for them. If you are building the first floor, keep the third floor ideas in mind but focus on executing the important first floor ideas.

Like anything, creating a valuable and lasting conference is a game of inches. It takes time. It takes a hankering for doing everything as good as you can, step by step. And it takes courage not to jump ahead of where you, or where the conference is.

Start where you are. Do it really well.

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