Don Neal Blog: The Author of Your Event
Does your organization host an event, a conference, a trade show, an annual meeting or a scientific symposium?

If it does, who is the author, the voice, the one person who is the spirit, inspiration and embodiment of the event?

Great events are like great performances, great books, great movies, great stories. And every great story has a single voice, an author. Star Wars had George Lucas, TED had Richard Saul Wurman, Harry Potter had J.K. Rowling, and the World Economic Forum in Davos had Klaus Martin Schwab.

Not convinced? You say, our event is to educate, to share ideas, to offer a forum for networking, to host a trade show, to share science. All of this is true and necessary, of course, but it’s not enough.

Every audience, at every event, wants and needs to be entertained, inspired, connected and part of something bigger. Great events have a narrative, a story line, a plot, creative tension, a script, performers, stage hands, roadies—a great event is a show. Yes, it’s a business; it’s show-business.

Want to know how to compete with conference attendance apathy, the proliferation of social media, virtual learning and the number one response to the survey question from non-attendees—“your event is too expensive,” (or it’s too far for me to travel)? The answer is to make it worth it, make it a performance, tell a story, leave your audience wanting more.

This is not possible when you have five departments each doing their own thing, one group in charge of logistics, one group doing the programming, one in charge of marketing, another person responsible for the P&L, and still another group of volunteers and committees who want to help.

No great novel, play, movie or story was ever written by a committee.

It’s time to think about a unified, empowered, inspired and talented author to write your next event. Even trade shows, scientific sessions and educational conferences need a plot and a unified, compelling and aspirational story.

Three tips to get started:

  1. We always suggest writing an event manifesto, an aspirational anthem, that captures the essence of the audience and the raison d’être of what you are seeking to accomplish by bringing your audience together.
  2. The author should have creative control and be allowed to have their vision come to life, which is not easy in a bureaucracy or an organization that has to bow to the will of multiple voices. You can honor the voices and incorporate them, but don’t let them dilute the author’s narrative.
  3. Seek outside advice. Often times, an informed and objective outsider can capture the soul and personality of a live experience better than those closest to it. Political candidates need advisors to channel their voice, heroes need a ghost writer to tell their stories, and great directors need a scriptwriter to bring the story to life.

Who will write the story for your organization’s next live performance?

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