Recipe for a successful conference

Back after a few days at my Sales Academy in Evian and have been reflecting on what makes a great sales conference. My team and I had been working so hard to make a success of this event and I feel like we made amazing progress. Of course nothing it’s perfect but 2019 has been the best yet and I started to think about how and why that was the case.

1. The first thing for me is a purpose. Following our high performing teams training we settled on our purpose as a management team being ‘Setting The Stage for Success’ what did we mean by that? Simply put, our job is to be the roadies for the team. Put everything in place to help them to succeed. This is what we carried through to the Academy as the theme. Too often leaders are the front men, the ones on stage, our view is that our teams should be up there.

2. Inclusion. This year we really involved a whole range of teams, individual sales teams from every market and division to create ‘Adbreaks’ – 5 minute case studies through out the few days, amazing opp for teams to present best work to a big crowd. We involved speakers from diverse backgrounds, a long list of amazing female talent in the business and both internal and external. All briefed to talk Setting the Stage for Success.

3. Safe space. As the team has grown and collaborated over the years, we have created a very safe culture – led by my wonderful directs with all team members happy to ask questions even to the most senior of Execs who we asked to come over, including our Global CFO and Head of Free Business, as well as the founder of Gimlet. The level of trust in the group has been amazing.

4. Fun.  Not too much, not too little. This year we were in a relatively controlled environment and so bed times were not too late. Lots and lots of fun but not too late and that has a lot of benefits. People were sharper the next day which meant they added more and interacted more. Tiredness leads to stress which can build when you are pulled away from your day job, even for the best content. Hangovers are so 2018.

5.Environment. We chose a venue that was calm, beautiful views and partially isolated and it was wonderful. Our meeting space was light and airy with views over lakes. We had lots of space and we built in time to breathe. Longer breaks, longer lunch, time at end of day to unwind and catch up, all meant people could concentrate and put phones and laptops down. The engagement was amazing.

6. Time to think. Often the goal of these events is based on packing as much in as possible ‘since we have everyone here.’ We have tried this and it does not work. If you want to drive attention during the sessions then making sure people have time to work and relax is vital. So longer breaks, time to unwind at the end of the day before any evening activities are all vital to a good mindset through the week. I was blown away by the attention of the teams this year because we engineered better timings. We also made sure that we ended on a Thursday and not a Friday so there was a working day left.

7. Prepare to be gone. A small additional note to this, prepare for absence well in advance and give air cover. If a business can’t operate with out irate clients for two and half days then we have an issue. Warn clients that you are having a massively beneficial team / learning experience, you won’t be around as normal and anything else should be managed around the event. I would also hope our clients would show consideration, lets face it, everyone does it at some point during the year.

I could not be happier, it takes work, it takes a small army of people to pull it off but the results will show. Don’t start with revenue as the goal, start with behaviours and your people and the rest will follow. I am so proud of the leads we have across EMEA, they bond, they get on, they work independently and as teams. We are in such a good place and the people are everything.

How has Tweeting changed the face of conferences?

Marco Bertozzi:29.03.10

I read today a post by Mel Carson that he tweeted out there about someone at a conference commenting on the clothing ‘suits’ and words they used at the conference ‘actionable’. He seemed quite upset that he had been described as a suit, you can see his defence at here and the fact a member of the audience had questioned certain words used.

That got me thinking about how the conference has changed, the old days you turned up perhaps a little hungover and under prepared, or absolutely word perfect, either way you did not really know how you were performing. The advent of tweeting at conferences and the fact presenters are actually reading them has meant you need to think very carefully about whether or not you want to tweet what’s on the tip of your tongue. The person Mel talks about has obviously caught the wrath of the conference speaker/attendee but will that always be the case? What are the rules?

It is easy to be bothered by peoples comments but at the same time you have put yourself in that situation and therefore should you not be prepared to take some criticism? I think yes, as a rule, thats not to say it is right that people hide behind electronic communication to make their points but equally if everytime someone is tackled up for their comments you will kill what has been the most interesting part of most conferences so I suggest caution. Although this was not the source of this post it did also get me thinking about the quality of ones presentations at conferences. Basically if you don’t want to get negative comments then prepare well and make the content interesting. It amazes me the amount of presentations that are re drafts, they are cut, chopped and diced to fit the subject of the day and often presented with no prep. In this age of live digital critiquing I think we all need to be prepared to take some grief if we have not put enough effort in.

In reality you will never please everyone, one man’s ‘suit’ is another man’s ‘professional’, who cares if you wear a suit? I think that the rule is if you don’t like what you read or hear, dont get up on stage.