Embracing the last minute panic

Like everyone in the conference business I've seen an alarming lack of planning creeping in over many years. A number of conflicting pressures have produced a “perfect storm” of conditions which really need innovative solutions.

Last week I was contacted by an old client. At his new company they had organised events themselves for the past three years. He now felt it was time to step up to a more professional event as the company grew and internal communications became more difficult.

All good. Curation of an event programme is something I agree with.

However, once I investigated his need a little, it became clear he had only one requirement: Some ideas for his next meeting with his boss. She was (his words) “needing a great game changer for next year” and he thought his best chance of shining in the meeting was to have three great ideas.

He wasn't thinking about the long term impact of the conference. He wasn't even thinking about the reception of key messages at the event. He was thinking about surviving the next ten days.

I see increasing expressions of frustration at these attitudes. I too remember considered, long term, strategic meetings which actually discussed strategy. I too tear my hair at the random decisions taken because the decision taker felt they had to have an opinion.

Luckily we have a model we can adopt, an industry which has had to adapt to exactly these conditions. I can’t believe I hold them up but – ladies and gentlemen – I give you: BBC News.

Every morning – I believe – camera cars are dispatched to create news stories. Each car has a camera operator and presenter on board, back at the news centre graphics designers and editors await the pictures which they can fashion into packages for the evening broadcast.

So far, so so. The vital point is that at the point of dispatch the news editor has little idea what story each reporter will cover. They put resources in place because they know there is a programme to be filled at 10 pm.

In the same way, in a short term client world, with a “point and click” mentality, and major decisions made on a whim – and changed on another whim – this is a powerful strategy.

Book the facilities, hire the talent, rent the tech, and then have the confidence to make the show once you have everyone’s attention. It makes little sense to create beautiful assets before the mind comes to bear.


Richard Tierney is the author of The Introverted Presenter
and a presentation consultant with Eyeful Presentations

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