I go to my fare share of conferences. And let me tell you, my friends, I’ve seen it all. Conferences, those grandiose gatherings that promise to transform us, to enlighten and inspire us, often fall short of their lofty ambitions. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s simple. They’re playing it safe, catering to the masses, and relying on facts and figures to do the heavy lifting.
But here’s the truth: facts don’t change behavior. If facts alone could change behavior we’d all be skinny, rich, and happy. No, my friends, it’s emotion that truly moves us. It’s the power of stories and those irrational impulses that ignite the fires of transformation within us. Bullet points and data alone won’t cut it.
Think about it. When the Surgeon General stood before the world and declared that smoking was a one-way ticket to the grave, did every smoker stub out their last cigarette then and there? Of course not! Because we, my friends, we are irrational creatures. And as change agents, we can either fight that irrationality, desperately clinging to our facts and figures, or we can embrace it and use it to fuel true change.
Conferences are meant to shake the average, the ordinary, the masses, right to their very core. We’re talking about the people in the middle of that bell curve—the ones who need that gentle push to embark on a different path. If these folks could be swayed by a simple memo, there’d be no need for conferences. But alas, we find ourselves crammed into mediocre airplanes, whisked away to average hotels, and corralled into banal conference rooms. We sit there, listening to speakers recite bullet points, and it’s all so proper, so respectable.
But guess what? It doesn’t work.
This isn’t just about conferences; it’s about life. When you’re on a sales call, your facts, your service, and your prices may be top-notch, but that doesn’t guarantee the sale. Annual reviews, encounters with authority figures—they all succumb to the same truth. People make decisions based on factors that have nothing to do with facts. Yet, what do we focus on? Improving our facts while neglecting the rest.
Now, think back to the moments when you experienced profound learning. I bet they didn’t occur in some dimly lit meeting room.
Conference organizers and their clients devote nearly all their time and money to two things: catering to the average and avoiding failure. That’s why conferences end up being, well, typical. The food, the setting, the venue, the chairs, the schedule—it’s all just so predictably average.
So, my challenge to you is this: break free from the chains of convention. Dare to be atypical. Transform the way people interact with one another. Shake up the elevator conversations. Create an environment where attendees walk in with a hunger for knowledge, ready to challenge the status quo. Let’s steer clear of that glazed look that says, “Hey, we’re in paradise, let’s get drunk and endure the CEO’s spiel.”
Sure, it won’t work on everyone. But isn’t it better to reach a few souls than none at all? (at least that’s what Billy Graham thought and look what he managed to achieve).