Why Are Most Events Rubbish?


Really good post from Roland Harwood at NESTA on the difficulty in setting up and running truly productive meetings. His candid observations are:

I’ve attended, spoken at, or organised more than my fair share recently, and found myself mentally writing a list of do’s a don’ts as follows:
•    Presentation – I prefer bumbling enthusiastic honesty to a slick rehearsed presentation, everytime.
•    Visualisation – Please don’t read out your slides verbatim – Tell vivid stories, show pictures, convey your enthusiasm.
•    Contradiction – Give me a healthy disagreement any day of the week, rather than fawning consensus (alas I fear a very British trait).
•    Conversation – There is never enough time or space for conversation. The best bits, as the unconference crowd well know, are the coffee breaks – always.
•    Inspiration – Going to events for me is all about getting inspired and learning something new, even though things all too often conspire against this.
•    Connection – There is almost certainly someone in the room you really would want to/should speak to – the trick is how to find them.
•    Facilitation – Is a dark and underrated art but alas so frequently apparent by it’s absence.
•    Discussion – Panel sessions are often tedious and artificial unless superbly curated. And Q&A almost always feel tokenistic and seldom adds much value.
Unfortunately, most events I attend still get many of these things wrong. We really must stop meeting like this!

This is a topic that has fascinated me for ages. I’ve lost count of the number of conferences and meetings that have been disappointing, both in the presentations and in the networking pragmatics (I speak as a speaker, organiser and attendee).

This is not to particularly criticise the organisers, presenters or attendees as everyone is collectively responsible. Organisers ask for feedback and get none, presenters see the same old faces every time and don’t get shook up enough and attendees comment to themselves but rarely fully interact with the speakers. This just seems to get worse the bigger the meeting…

There is a dichotomy here of course. The real world is all about handling mess and complexity and partial truths and trying to get something done whilst most approaches focus on slickness, (the illusion of) simplicity and getting the point over in a short space of time. The need is to make the overlap between these two standpoints larger in an exciting and inspirational manner.

One step would be to get all three sides to better integrate the issues at hand whilst being more communally open, honest and constructive. I appreciate that that might be viewed as commercial or organisational suicide but hopefully that’s being unduly defeatist!

So, on this note, how about having a meeting to come up with ways to make meetings better 😉

Picture credit here.


One Response to Why Are Most Events Rubbish?

  1. […] will change in any major way even though there are workable suggestions for improvement (see also here). Maybe this is just fear of change again, by all concerned – organisers, speakers and […]

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