Having attended my fair share of conferences over the years, I noticed a couple of things.
1) Speakers often share too much about themselves and their companies.
2) There are too many bullet points flying everywhere.
3) 45 minutes is waaaay too long to capture people’s attention.
4) Printed handouts makes one lazy… and inattentive.
5) Delegates get bored real soon, usually before tea, before lunch, and just after lunch.
6) Handphones, PDA phones and other devices offering mobile connectivity makes it worse.
In this age of social media, RSS readers and bite-sized content, the one thing that is sorely missing is a long and unbroken concentration span. I will be amazed if you can remember 80% of what you heard at a conference say…. last week?
How does one get around these problems of mass distraction? I have an idea.
Just allow 10 minutes per speaker, with each allowed to pitch just one idea. 10 minutes should be enough to elaborate about the background, approach, strategy, tactics and thinking behind an idea. This should then be followed by another 10 minutes of discussion.
Oh yes, I forgot. No handouts please. That way, people have to concentrate, jot down their own notes and really pay attention.
With this in mind, the entire conference/seminar would be kept short, sweet and razor sharp. Perhaps we can limit the intense sessions to just two hours, with the rest of the event dedicated to discussions, networking and lunch (burp). Let people mull over the key learning points, ponder about its application, debate its pros and cons, and imprint it deeply into their minds.
The scarcity of time will make presenters more mindful of what their key messages are, and to devise ways to get it delivered in the most efficient and impactful manner. In fact, this approach is favoured by venture capitalists who get inundated with business plans and funding proposals.
Let’s dispense with the pleasantries and get down to business. And please don’t speak like a speeding bullet.
Of course such an approach may be more stressful for speakers who are used to rambling about their college degrees. Or participants who want to have a relaxing, wistful time daydreaming about their last/upcoming vacation.