The way we organize conferences is changing in large ways and small. Needless to say, our team at FRESH couldn’t be more excited; to us, there’s nothing more, dare we say, “refreshing” than when event organizers think outside of the traditional conference box and deviate from the status quo.
Here are five suggestions for 2015 on how event organizers can craft an event that’s truly fresh.
- Invite an unexpected and potentially off-topic keynote.
One of the biggest complaints we hear from conference-goers is that many events they go to have the same speakers every year – and often give different variations of the same speech. Yawn much? If you want to excite your attendees, gift them with the element of surprise. Rather than bringing in the keynote speaker that everyone expects you to invite, introduce a new or unexpected voice that your audience may have never even heard – but will knock their socks off.
- Diversify every panel. (Yes, all of them.)
There is nothing more irksome (and frankly, boring) to see an all-white, all-male panel at an event. But, sadly, this happens all the time at conferences, as well as in the media. If you want a truly awesome and interesting discussion, your job should be to make sure that a diverse representation of voices is included. Can’t find a person of color and/or woman for the particular panel you’re coordinating? Ahem.
- Practice equal pay for your speakers.
Trust us, we get it. Some speakers ask for more money for their time. But we also know that conferences will often tell one speaker they have no budget to pay them, then give the next speaker a hefty payout for the exact same level of participation. When a speaker asks for an honorarium, do your best to honor them.
- Don’t just limit “diversity” to race and gender.
After all, there are a lot more identities out there. For example, too often we see older speakers dominate a conference speaker roster. Do you have any speakers under 30? Any LGBT speakers? Speakers from outside of the U.S.? How about even just outside your field? It’s simple: The more diverse your event, the more generative (and exciting!) the conversation will be.
- Invoke action–not just ideas.
Great conferences should spark awe, wonder, even anger–but what about after the event? If you want your attendees to truly remember your event, think about how they can also be participants, and help channel the emotions you’ve invoked in them, into an important cause. The Clinton Global Initiative’s commitment structure is a useful example of this.