Risks of Conference Mimicry

The three experiences that you should add to your next conference are:

  1. Hosted-buyer appointments
  2. A start-up pavilion and Shark Tank theater on your show floor
  3. Roundtable discussions during your day-one lunch

Do these and you’ll increase revenue, engagement and value. (If only it was that easy.)

When it comes to conference experience design, borrowing ideas for innovation can be a very risky proposition. A novel session format that succeeds at one conference is likely due to the strategic alignment, learning design and session leaders, not the format or idea.

Conference innovation requires a deep understanding of how to make it work for your particular demographic and industry, not just copycatting what someone else does. The best ideas will usually come from non-conference experiences or mashing-up ideas to create something unique.

Make a two-year commitment to infusing new elements into your conference experiences. Use the learnings from the first attempt to make year two even better. In year one, stack the deck for success. Recruit influential participants as ambassadors of the new experience. Err on the side of over-investing into the experience and communication to ensure year-one success.

Where do you get inspiration for conference innovation? 
P.S. We've launched a Speaker Matchmaking service exclusively for current and former clients. Find out more about it here .
April 2018
Video: Jay Acunzo on how to be exceptional by trusting the gift... your intuition
Do you remember playing follow the leader as a kid? So many of today’s conferences are like that game: We secure successful leaders to speak, share their best practices and race back to our offices to immediately copy their ideas. But there are risks associated with following best practices.
We like to see or hear about others’ great ideas and copy them for our own meetings. Being inspired by fresh ideas and conference features is in itself a good thing. The challenge is understanding those ideas within the context of your own event. To be a fast follower, you need to be fast while ensuring that what worked at someone else’s event will be embraced by your attendees.

Who do you follow today in the conference landscape? I am grateful for conference leaders, legends and icons who took risks with their conferences. Sometimes their plans worked, sometimes they didn’t. But h ere’s the overlooked and often misunderstood big idea: There’s a distressingly cavernous difference between adopting an emerging practice and blindly copying!

We are all looking for that next fresh big idea that we can implement immediately. Unfortunately, we often step directly into that copying trap and don’t realize it before it’s too late. One solution is to study the source context for the idea. Is it a business context? What type of attendees do they attract? Here are five more practices you should borrow, not steal.