March 16th, 2020 Richard Mulholland
I have no respect for companies cancelling their conferences outright, gatherings, sure… but not the learning. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Are you a corporation that is considering or has already cancelled a conference amid the COVID-19 crisis? If so I think there are three questions that you have to answer before you do.
QUESTION ONE: Why do you have conferences in the first place?
The answer should be to improve your company through the sharing of knowledge. A convenient side-effect would then be bringing your people together for social interaction. Both are priorities, however, if the latter was more important than the former, you could just have a party or team-building event.
No, the reason that you should be having a conference is to make your people smarter! I started a presentation company in 1997, and probably my biggest fight with our clients is that they attribute more time and attention to the entertainment than they do to the content – an order of magnitude more. This is particularly crazy when you stop to consider the true cost of your conference.
I think companies spend the money on entertainment as they see that as the reward for enduring bad presentations. Well, what’s tolerated is replicated. There is no good reason that any good company leader today should be accepting anything less than TED level presentations (again, see video above for why.).
No, if you are cancelling your conference due to COVID-19, you are clearly a company that values having parties with your people more so than making them smarter – and I certainly have zero respect for that. To be clear, I don’t have zero respect for wanting to bring your people closer with booze and parties, just for not being brave enough to drop the façade of the learning.
If however, you do want to prioritize making your people smarter, then you need to answer this:
QUESTION TWO: Do your teams need more, or less visual leadership and communication at a time like this?
More. The correct answer is more.
QUESTION THREE: Are you a company of hibernators or a company of adapters?
If you are cancelling your conference, enjoy your hibernation. Go dig a hole, climb in, and wait for the plague to pass, but think about this: if that information was important enough to share in a conference room, then it should be important enough to share on a conference call.
If you’re an adapter, and you really are one of my make people smarter clan. Then for goodness sake ADAPT!
I mentioned TED previously. I am one of the lucky few that has attended a few official TED events (I was lucky enough to do a 3-minute talk at TED Global in 2005, and was one of the speaker coaches at TED Global in 2011). It’s a really small amount of people that have attended TED talks, but it’s almost impossible to find someone that hasn’t watched one. Online!
It turns out, we can learn from watching talks online just fine. In fact, in many ways, they can be better. So tell me again why you are cancelling? There are heaps of tools available for you to turn your conference into a series of short-punchy webinars.
I can tell you this, that webinar software is a heck of a lot cheaper than the hotel rooms are – and here’s the thing, now that you have removed the gift of the booze and parties, you have no excuse for not delivering an absolute ass-kicker of a presentation, because now the presenters have nothing to hide behind.
You just have to be good.
Over the next few days, I’ll write posts for you on tips for how you can successfully run an online company conference. For goodness sake though, just run it! Question your priorities, and be an adaptor.
Obviously, owning a company that helps with this, my motives for this post are not completely selfless, and we’d love to help you make better presentations. However, if not us, reach out to one of our competitors (compatriots). I can also recommend; Duarte, Ethos3, and Secret Weapon.
This is not just a call to action, it’s a call to adaptation.
I hope you take it…!
Posted by Richard Mulholland
A motorbike riding, boardgame playing, punk rocking, kung-fu fighting, kettlebell swinging, business running, microphone abusing inked-ellectual gentleman. And Missing Link founder.