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Is an unconference right for my event?

For the uninitiated, an unconference is ‘a loosely structured conference emphasising the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants rather than following a conventionally structure programme of events’ … according to the Oxford dictionary.

Do they work in the world of business?

The answer is yes … and no.

If innovation is what you’re after, then an unconference is a great way to generate ideas.

Here’s how
Start by getting people in the room with knowledge around a particular topic.

Allow participants to build their own agenda … anyone with an idea for a session posts it on a public wall and the agenda is created from all the suggestions.

Then … and this is real tough love … everyone goes along to whatever sessions appeal to them. But everyone is duty bound to get up and leave if they don’t believe they’re gaining from or contributing to the session.

Harsh but a sure fire way to make sure that the people in the room stay interested, the event stays focused and you exploit the fact that ‘the sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage’ (according to blogger Dave Winder).

And when not to!
For a business with specific messages to share, an unconference is unlikely to work.

But you can steal elements to inject some of the energy that goes with an unconference to make your own event memorable and make those all important messages stick long after everyone’s back in their day job.

We’ve produced a useful guide to unconferences for event professionals. You can download your free copy of The Geek’s Guide to Unconferences here.

Three key themes for event professionals in 2017

2017 promises to be another busy year for event professionals. Here’s a super quick round up of three key themes to keep abreast of in the year ahead.

Knowledge is power
The old saying that knowledge is power could well be translated into ‘data is power’ in today’s virtual world. Companies keen to promote their products use data to show us their latest offerings everywhere we go.

Event professionals need to treat data in the same way … mining it for useful insight into delegate behaviour and to personalise the delegate journey, making each and every person feel they are an individual and not just another number on a spreadsheet.

If you’re an event professional who’s serious about getting real returns on your efforts, you need to get to grips with all the different platforms available to collect, manage, share and ultimately analyse all the data collected before, during and after your event.

Only by understanding how to harness the power of data will your events bring measurable ROI which you can use to support the case for future events.

VR, AR and other acronyms!
OK, so virtual reality and augmented reality aren’t the new kids on the block any more … but they are becoming increasingly sophisticated and they’re here to stay.

Used carefully, technology can transport your delegates into whole new worlds at your events to reinforce messages and introduce concepts in an immersive, engaging way.

But, it’s absolutely essential to really understand the capabilities of each technology so you get the best out of it to meet your event objectives.

As with any kind of technology, it’s crucial to understand why you’re using it before jumping in! Get your messaging clear at the outset and only then decide how you’re going to share that messaging with your audience.

Event professionals are a creative lot, who’ve known for some time that pretty much every space is a potential event space … from the café down the road to a massive disused warehouse and lots more beside.

But beware … if you’re used to holding your events in conference suites, hotel meeting rooms or other purpose built premises … delivering an event in a blank canvas venue is a whole different experience.

For starters, just making sure all the essential services you’re going to need are laid on can be a challenge. Power and water may come as standard in lots of venues, but if you don’t get these basics right when you’re pushing the boundaries venue-wise, it’s not just a dodgy wi-fi signal your delegates could be complaining about!

There’s always a lot to consider, but careful planning is even more vital in this kind of space to make absolutely sure everything is budgeted and contracted well ahead of event day so your event goes with a swing.

Why companies should love their middle managers

The value of specialist events for middle managers has been highlighted in a recent report we’ve published with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The report explains that leaders need to make time to talk to their middle managers, face to face, in informal and formal ways to help build organisational trust and fuel business growth.

This means well-planned, bespoke, middle manager events which have senior level buy-in. Clearly this will also mean a significant investment of time – both from event teams and the leadership – but creatively conceived events like this can be extremely effective in harnessing the power of that all-important tier of middle management.

We’re not talking about stand and tell events where the leadership delivers a series of ‘broadcast’ presentations.

The events should give the audience plenty of opportunity to feed back and should encourage genuine two-way debate and dialogue from the get go. Using imaginatively designed breakouts and group work will encourage delegates to feel comfortable enough to interact with the leadership team. This is where the two-way debate will happen and this is where trust will begin to grow and flourish.

The ‘Middle Manager Lifeline’ report (which you can download here if you’re interested) highlights the need to run bespoke events for this important group as part of the broader ambition to build trust. Check out page 25.

How to survive in a post-Brexit world

The need for timely and clear communications with staff has never been greater than in the era of post-Brexit UK. Astute leaders will recognise the need to step up and avoid a communication vacuum – to remain (or become) highly visible and offer reassurance to their employees by addressing the issue honestly and openly. So agencies who deal at the top level are likely to thrive in these uncertain times.

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