It’s no surprise that the events industry has changed over the last 10 years. Tastes have changed, technology has changed (drastically!). I’ve changed, you’ve changed. Hell, the whole world has changed. For better or worse? Well, you can decide.
In that time, I’ve produced every type of event. To be honest with you, I have no idea how many. But I’m well past Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours, which should really qualify me for a grandfather clock or something…The two songs that are never far from my mind are Jay Z’s ‘Onto The Next One’ and the theme tune to The Littlest Hobo…
Coming from a theatre background, I was drawn to the high stakes pressure of corporate events. The methodical, process-driven planning phase. The rush of adrenaline, followed by the elation of a successful event. The phrase ‘you are only as good as your last event’ exists for reason. And what can I say? I love that pressure.
So what’s the one thing that has remained constant in all my time in this industry? Bad presentations. Really bad ones. It’s no one’s fault, and it’s not for want of trying. It’s the techniques taught in the late 80s and 90s that have stuck around. But it’s time to move with the times.
TED should get credit for opening people’s eyes to what a presentation should be like (if you get the chance, check out this TED Talk on AI by the inspirational Kai-Fu Lee.) Yet—despite 28 years of TED, a tonne of books on innovative presentation techniques, and loads of coaching now available on the subject—I’ll still be handed a 155 page slide deck with enough bullets to kill a herd of elephants.
That said, TED’s influence goes beyond presentation techniques. It has also influenced Event Design. Over the last 10 years, and especially the last 3, there has definitely been a shift from looking solely at the logistics of an event, to trying to design events around Return on Event Objectives and Return on Investment.
And it’s about time. For years, we as an industry sat down with clients and asked a lot of questions—but rarely did we ask the right ones. We rarely asked about objectives, rarely did we explore the ‘why’ of the event in any depth, rarely did we ask about the experience from the delegates’ point of view (except for the food, transport and accommodation). And we definitely didn’t talk about behaviour change.
However, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I see people out there fighting the good fight, asking the right questions, and ultimately making better events for their clients and the delegates. They’re saving people from death by bullet point, one event at a time, and for that I salute them.
Event Design is only really in its infancy. But if we embrace the change and do it properly, it will create a more focused and mutually beneficial arrangement between us and our clients. Ultimately, it will enhance the event experience. And if you want to change behaviour and get your message across, then the experience matters.