Business events are about what you learn, what you experience and who you meet. But all too often the content is delivered via PowerPoint, and the experience passive and somewhat repetitive.
After a recent experience, I wonder if the real power of events lies in the conversations and discussions among peers, facilitated by topic experts?
A show globally renowned for reimaging events as a concept is C2 Montréal. Considered one of the world’s most innovative, immersive and out of the box business events, it brings together over 6,500 thought leaders and creative minds, to shape, experience and challenge the future of business – delivering a truly original business event.
Recently I had the privilege to attend Melbourne Edge, an education forum for Hosted Buyers of AIME 2018, which focused on exploring the future of the global business events industry. Martin Enault, Chief Operating Officer at C2 International, Melissa Kaplan, Chief Digital Advisor at Microsoft and Carolyn Miller, Founder/Director of The Honeycomb Effect, led an engaging, interactive workshop to facilitate discussion on the current issues and trends facing our industry.
The purpose of the workshops was to encourage Hosted Buyers to think laterally about events within their portfolio, before embarking on two jam-packed days of inspiration and connection at AIME.
It was not so much what the topics of the discussion were, but instead how the workshops were facilitated that has had me thinking about the ensuing ideas and realisations in the weeks since AIME.
Following the morning’s plenary session, delegates were split up into groups to experience two workshops where the objectives were to facilitate free thinking, valuable conversation and peer-led learning on the current issues facing events and the trends influencing the industry moving forward.
In the first experience, Colourful Conversations, technology played a simple yet pivotal role. We were asked a series of questions, starting with ‘what sector of the events industry do you represent?’ – while six answers appeared on a screen – each correlating to a colour. Spotlights projected the same colours on to the ground, with each delegate flocking to the colour which represented their answer.
Sounds simple, right? Simple, but highly effective in facilitating conversation.
Conversation with like-minded peers, as once we arrived at our coloured spotlight, we discussed the issues that faced us in our role and when planning events. By using the novelty of colour to identify delegates on the same wavelength – the ice was broken, and immediate connections were made allowing the heart of the conversation to flourish.
With the questions becoming progressively more challenging – from ‘what technology will have the biggest impact on the future of events?’ to ‘what keeps you up at night?’ – the insights shared became increasingly more valuable.
The experience culminated with a final question – we were given 15 minutes to sit with a group of aligned and engaged individuals to discuss all the challenges and opportunities that had been highlighted along our journey. The discussion was enlightening, thought-provoking and relevant.
The second experience, In the Dark, was similarly revealing, despite the lights being off.
Split into smaller groups, we were walked into a dark room and sat in a circle – where again we were asked a series of questions.
Without the light, without the faces, without the inhibitions, many answers were shared that I truly believe would not have been divulged if the lights were on – myself included. The questions focused on ‘when have you been hit from a blind spot in your business?’ and ‘what would you have done differently with the benefit of hindsight?’
The simple act of turning the lights off, encouraged me to focus on my thoughts, my answers, my learnings and share my truthful responses, under the relative safety of darkness.
We could have sat in a conference session and been told all the answers, but instead, by facilitating engaging and relevant conversation between peers – the lessons, the ideas, the shared experiences and the solutions, resonated so much more and have subsequently stayed with me in the weeks after the event.
With the workshop takeaways still bouncing around my mind, I have had time to reflect on and grow my personal and professional opinions; and shape an action plan for my clients to take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges of business events.
Business events are still about what you learn, what you experience and who you meet, however, instead of feeding our delegates all the answers via PowerPoint, what Melbourne Edge excelled at, and taught me, was the power of facilitation. To facilitate breaking down barriers, asking poignant questions and fostering the collaboration of ideas to be put into action.