Carl Honore has devoted his time to promoting the Slow Movement. After reading his first book, In Praise of Slow, on a flight to launch our new office in Malaysia it completely changed my way of looking at life. Ironically, I wanted to finish reading the book before the flight ended!!
My time was the classic over-busy, meeting-packed agenda of the CEO of a growing start-up. Everyone seemed to be short changed. My clients. My staff. My family. And me. There was never enough time to really sit and think. Everything was tactical, not strategic. Since reading the book and changing my life I have got to know Carl. What he is achieving is truly remarkable. The Slow Movement is touching every part of business and society - for the better.
If you haven't heard about the Slow Movement, hit pause on your busy, busy day and take 20 mins to listen to his TED talk. Don't listen to it whilst answering emails or reading blogs. Just sit quietly and listen. Interestingly, in a recent article on 18 things creative people do, there are several traits that are contemplative.
Now. Where and how can we incorporate some of these ideas into the events industry?
Agenda: We try and pack too many sessions into too little time. We leave little time after each session for reflection on what we heard. So maybe we should be making the speakers talk less with more time between sessions, which is explicitly for thinking - not answering emails. It is also worth remembering that the mind can only absorb what the backside can endure.But also make the networking breaks long enough to be effective. More more of this in the next section.
Connecting: Most delegates would say that networking is one of the valuable reasons for attending an event. So organisers need to work harder at enabling delegates to connect before the event using technology and then leaving enough time in the agenda for coffee and lunch breaks to enable that networking to flourish. But you don't have to just rely on technology to help make connections work. By organising lunch tables by country, industry interest or some other category encourages better quality networking. And let's make the names on badges big enough so people can read them at a reasonable distance.
Slow food: Can we try and make the lunch enjoyable, rather than just "refuelling". A hastily eaten sandwich standing up or a plate of food balanced on a knee does not set the delegate up for an effective afternoon in sessions. Now I understand feeding the masses is a logistical nightmare and a constant compromise. Your sponsors and exhibitors want the delegates to spend their lunch time browsing the stands and hearing their latest pitch. Your delegates want a leisurely lunch with a crisp Chablis followed up by a short nap!
Evening entertainment: Every event, especially tech user conferences, now seems to have a "has-been" 1980s or 90's band playing a gig. Salesforce.coms recent Dreamforce also had bands playing at lunchtimes. Is this what delegates really want? They are unlikely to make their decision to attend based on the band that is playing. Often the food is another "stand-up buffet" and the music is too loud for sensible conversation. Let's rethink this from the delegate's perspective. They need to eat. They want to wind down. They want to meet other like-minded delegates. They maybe want to make some connections. So we should be setting up a series of larger networking dinners, possible sponsored by vendors, and be smarter about how which delegates are invited to which dinner. Or we lay out the conference venue as a huge Italian street cafe and let dinner take all evening.
Time for Slow Events
I don't have all the answers - clearly. But by thinking about events from a different, Slower, perspective we may come to some very different answers in terms of the agenda, approach and our delegates and exhibitor's needs.
And it could cost less, not more. But still give a better result. Which is surprising. Rather like the Slow Movement.