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When no show is a good show

Expensive extras can dilute the message

Once the venue is sorted, many conference organisers plunge headlong into ‘The Show’. But we know that deciding what to say can be problematic.
If the delegates are employees, there are sensitivities regarding who is delivering the message, how it should be said and what baggage they carry as internal speakers.
Add in that most finance or IT directors are not specifically employed for their sparkling charisma or ability to project a message and you begin to appreciate the complexities of mass human communication.


If the audience needs to be wooed and wowed because they are potential salespeople or distributors for your product, the range of choices of how to communicate with them as delegates gets wider. You must give them enough information to gain acceptance but not so much that they get bored.

Equally there has to be a balance of ‘need-to-know’ content and marketing stuff, so they feel informed as well as motivated.

You might feel that a celebrity speaker endorsing the message may lift it above the market cacophony. If you are launching an incentive you may feel that dry ice and dancing girls…or boys…may be appropriate.

To punch the messages home you may get talked into running an exhibition before or after the main conference, so that employees can see what other parts of the organisation do and the sellers can see what there is to buy.

What started out as a simple, 24-hour delegate rate has now quadrupled in cost and morphed into the biggest logistical challenge since the formation of the solar system. The CEO refuses to be ‘scripted’ and says he will just wing it on the day with some PowerPoints he will have prepared in his hotel bedroom the night before.

The hired-in celebrity host is refusing to attend for the rehearsal without a Winnebago mobile dressing room alongside the venue. The marketing director’s wife thinks soufflé would be a great choice of main course for your 600 delegates… and there are rumours of an air traffic controllers’ strike. Plus, the budget is way out of control.

Many years ago my first professional event as an in-house organiser was a sales conference in the UK for 550 insurance salespeople whom I had invited to the Birmingham Metropole for a one-day conference.

Within five minutes of the conference beginning there was a power generator failure backstage. This meant we had lights in the auditorium but nothing happening on stage.

We decided to reconfigure the audience layout into rounds of 10 and told them to discuss between themselves whatever they wanted while we tried to fix things. Their discussions lasted six hours. The post-conference research revealed that almost all the delegates said they had the most productive sales event they had ever had, just by being able to talk to their peers and swap sales stories. No-one complained that there had been no show.

Is hospitality worth the trouble?
What makes a destination attractive?

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