Conferences, trade shows, conventions, and other events, just like people, have unique personalities. There are all different types, and many have been conditioned by their environment.
Over time, they become a caricature of themselves, and this can drive people away in subsequent years. If you want a well-rounded event that has a lot to offer attendees, you need to question how people perceive the experience of participation.
Just as with relationships between people, the personality of your event is important to how attendees feel while present. If a person is too serious all the time, there is little joy found from prolonged encounters. They might get the job done, but nobody longs to be in the room when they are around.
On the flip side, someone is who is only the life of the party might be great to hang around once in a while, but their lack of intention eventually is tiring. An event is no different. Just business and it begins to drag on, no content and there is little reason to justify being present.
No person grows up hoping they will be described by their friends and family as stuffy, stogy, stale, uninspiring, or overly serious. And I do not imagine that those who are responsible for a company or association event desire similar labels.
I have never run across an executive director or CEO that has asked for his or her event to be something akin to a funeral parlor. Most want the right mix of high level learning and also to create a memorable experience for all those present.
Why then do so many events fall short of finding the right balance of education and amusement? It might be that our organizations, like people, are taking themselves too seriously.
The person who needs to prove they are the smartest person in room can quickly suck the energy right out of the crowd; the same is true of a show where the host organization is caught up in their own self-importance.
Positive energy and good vibes cannot survive in a self-centered environment. If you strangle the playful side of the event in the planning and execution, there is no chance that there will be much exuberance on the trade show floor (from vendors or attendees). Without purposefully giving “joy” a front seat the event could be doomed.
A friend once told me of a former co-worker that was very creative before she got promoted, and that everyone had seen her, and their signature event, become flat in personality after she became so focused on the minutia.
The event became measured on the content, and everything else was unimportant. The social parties were simply a band and open bar without a purpose. There was no time for people to be playful or engaged with each other, and so they were not having any “Hallway Conversations” or other meaningful interactions.
When asked for feedback, attendees said the show was dying from lack of imagination. Some said it had played itself out for too long, and without anything fresh is was stale.
But how can we re-invent a personality? People and events can get very set in their ways. Yet human can re-invent themselves and change their negative ways when they are made aware of their missteps and choose to improve.
It is not easy, but it I have seen many people grow and change for the better. Events can re-invent their personalities in the same manner. But it takes a commitment from everyone involved, and it cannot be something that is done only by words.
Actions are what will matter. Most people will give others and events a chance when they understand there is an effort being made to try a new way. Nobody should wait until the patient is dying to attempt a cure.
What do you think?