- Seth Godin, bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change - November 13, 2005


"I am frequently amazed, but not particularly surprised, at what a bad job conferences do at their stated objective. What’s the problem?

After all, these are expensive, professionally-run events that work hard to satisfy the typical attendee.

And that, of course, is the problem."


Facts don’t change people’s behaviour! Emotion changes people’s behaviour!

Stories and irrational impulses are what change behaviour. Not facts or bullet points.

If all we need is facts, then books alone would be sufficient.


If people would learn, take action and make things happen with just a memo, you wouldn’t need to have a conference. But we end up being flown on average planes to average hotels to sit in average conference rooms and hear average speakers doing presentations filled with bullet points. And it’s all beyond reproach. But it doesn’t work.


Think about the most powerful learning moments you’ve ever had. My guess is that they didn’t take place in a darkened meeting room.


Conference organisers (and more important, their clients) spend virtually all of their time and money doing one of two things:


1. Satisfying the centre of the bell curve.

2. Avoiding failure


That’s why the typical conference is... typical.

That’s why the food and the setting and the venue and the location and the chairs and the layout and the schedule and the refreshment breaks are... typical.

If you want to run a meeting (a brainstorming meeting, a board meeting, a zoning commission meeting) that is likely to perform as well as your past meetings, then the best thing to do is to run it the way you’ve always been running it, right?


Here’s the challenge, then: figure out how to do the atypical.


•   How to change the interactions that people have with each other?

•   How to change what they talk about in the elevator?

•   How to create an environment where people walk in ready to learn and change and challenge, as opposed to getting that,

      “hey we’re in the Bahamas let’s get drunk and then sit through a session with the CEO" glazed look. Sure, it won't work on

      everyone, but that's better than working on no one?

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