We seem to always be looking for the next quick tip, idea, or feature to implement for our next conference.
But not so fast — there’s some work that needs to be done first.
Just copying someone else’s success and ideas is an easy way out.
Give Me Your Great Ideas…Fast!
We like to see and hear about others’ great ideas. We like lists of practical tips or steps to solve an issue.
Then we copy them for our own meetings.
We’re just like our conference attendees. When we attend a conference, we want to pack in as many industry education sessions as possible to give us the (insert number here) best practices or top great ideas for success.
Face it; we’re attracted to shiny objects for our conference innovation.
Inspiring Ideas Coupled With Understanding Wins
Being inspired by fresh ideas and others’ conference features is in itself a good thing.
Well, usually it’s a good thing. Except when we avoid thinking about those ideas and just look for a turnkey solution to implement for immediate success.
The challenge with great ideas is understanding the issue underneath those ideas. It’s thinking through how those new ideas might improve your conference participants’ experience. It’s understanding the real issue, not the tip, enough to adopt it for your context.
Learning Lounge Mimicry Failures
Show-floor education theaters are a good example of what I mean.
It’s a smart move to make your expo more educational.
Unfortunately, about half of the attempts that I’ve witnessed have failed miserably because the show organizers:
- Put the theaters in the back of the hall to attract traffic to that part of the room and few attended.
- Adopted a pay-to-play speaking model which many attendees despise.
- Replicated normal 45-90 minute conference sessions instead of creating bite-sized, threaded learning experiences.
- Built beautiful sets and scaffolding and didn’t take the audience’s need for good audio amplification into consideration.
In each of these examples, the customer experience was not given sufficient consideration. The great idea failed.
Illusions Of Knowing
Part of the problem is that we that think having a list of ideas means we now know what to do.
We are trying to take someone else’s hard work and ideas and plug them into our situations. We think copying their steps to success will work for us.
That’s the problem. It’s their ideas, not ours. We don’t own it.
We are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we are not, according to Make It Stick: The Science Of Successful Learning authors Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel.
We are deluded by the belief that a list of tips, tricks, or fresh ideas will help us improve. We think that if someone else has already done the work and taken the risk, they’ve given us a quick and easy blueprint for our own event’s improvement.
We are unaware that the gains from these strategies can be fleeting and temporary.
Parroting Others Usually Leads To Failure
Research from learning experts like Ruth Colvin Clark, Daniel Willingham, and James Zull reinforces that just giving the best ideas to someone to implement leads to parroting behavior.
Parroting is when we have only a surface familiarity with a topic. And parroting usually leads to failure.
Borrow And Double Down With Understanding
Go ahead and borrow ideas from others.
Just be sure to double down on deep thinking and the understanding of the issue underneath that idea.
You must invest the time. You need champions willing to support your efforts to think those ideas through from incubation to execution.
How can we make great ideas and tip conference education more meaningful for attendees? What can we do to curb mimicry and encourage deep authentic learning at our conferences?
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2015.