The VCC team is always in search of the latest science or research (outside of our industry) that can be applied to conference experience improvement. About a year ago, we discovered organizational anthropologist and author of Conversational Intelligence, Judith E. Glaser. She has devoted her career to studying humans and how conversations shape their culture, brains and effectiveness as leaders.
According to Glaser, nine out of ten conversations miss the mark. Her research illustrates our need to intentionally design conferences that promote deeper and more meaningful conversations with peers in the learning environment and in the conference hallways. This research also has very practical application to our personal and professional lives.
We know the primary reasons participants attend conferences is to learn, network and accelerate dealmaking. Conversations are the conference currency that can turn one or more of those attendance levers into a competitive advantage.
Our challenge as conference organizers is to have a basic understanding of the science and impact that transformational conversations can have on the attendee experience. We need to make it part of our conference culture. We should strive to design conference experiences that encourage participants to be curious, transparent and share their passions, dreams and aspirations. We need participants to trust the conference organizer and one another.
Did you know that the quality of conversations--especially those that people have with others at conferences and meetings--has a direct chemical impact on them, those around them, and therefore on the organizations they belong to?
Years ago I was asked to work with a high-profile entertainment company in Hollywood. The culture was rife with destructive politics and distrust, and the owners were not in sync. Over several months, I assessed the leaders, diagnosed the nature of their challenges, and saw that distrust would destroy company unless leadership put the real issues on the table. The company's directors decided to take 25 executives out of town for a retreat to do what they had avoided for years--talk straight with one another.
Peer conversations are more important to your conference than you know.
I'm not talking about one of your attendees serving as a speaker talking at the audience. That's a lecture.
I'm referring to peer conversations in pairs, threesomes and small groups. You know when it's happening at conferences because the rooms are buzzing with discussions. Everyone is talking to someone else.
I've spoken before about behavioural flexibility (blog) and now I want to focus on conversational agility.
For those of you who have practised yoga at some point in your lives, you probably know that flexibility is key to managing and achieving some of the yoga poses. Some of us may be naturally flexible however for many of us, flexibility comes from repetition and practice. We all have an ability to increase our level of flexibility.
Suppose a colleague gives you a compliment as you meet her in the hallway and then another person accidentally bumped you in passing. You will respond more quickly and strongly to being bumped than to being complimented, even if the person who knocked into you immediately apologizes. You have little power over those instinctual reactions. In fact, your mood will be altered longer.