Associations, I’m talking to you…
I hope all event planners for industry conferences read this, as IMHO it’s time for some real change around association events. Specifically, the focus should be solely as an educational opportunity to enrich members, as opposed to a profit center.
This week I was fortunate to be among a small group (~300) invited to the Distressed Servicing 2009 Conference was developed and presented by EuroCatalyst and Housing Wire.
The event‘s theme was to challenge best practices in debt servicing and the U.S. Impact on Global Mortgage Markets.
Their tag line was “You Will Never View the Industry the Same Way Again.” That’s an understatement. Additionally, I will also never view conferences the same way again.
That’s all I can tell you. Seriously.
The organizers brought together C-Level (COB, CEO, COO, etc), high-level executives from across the servicing value chain (and around the globe), economists, GSEs and others for a series of peer-to-peer, brutally candid conversations lasting two days. The concept was to foster open, candid sharing and panelists were asked (and answered) challenging questions.
Interestingly, to encourage open discussion, ensure confidentiality and privacy, thus alleviating the need to stay “on message”, everyone was asked to sign a No Media policy. No taping, tweeting, writing, blogging etc. about the specific content or attributing quotes to anyone.
Associations, I challenge you!
I understand the need to make money. I do. I’m all about profit. That said do your members really want to attend events where they get more value from networking than the sessions?
Have you ever had 300+ heavyweights, CEOs, etc. arrive at 8:00am and sit in a conference room, engrossed in every single session for 8 straight hours?
“This is the first time I’ve actually learned something at a conference.”
Big associations and conference organizers – are you listening? What a shame for your events that this sentiment was echoed again and again at this event.
Commented Toni Moss , CEO of EuroCatalyst in the July issue of HousingWire
“We wanted to do something different by focusing on interaction, education and entertainment – particularly because networking is needed to become more sophisticated rather than drinking in bars and hallways; we had the challenge of educating an audience of extremely senior people who did not feel the need for education; and we find most conferences void of content so we thought we’d provide more color and commentary by editorializing through music and art.”
Provide value, they will come!
And, they will pay handsomely for the privilege. The key word here is value, in addition to perspective. This was not a fluffy event. No economists sharing flowery predictions of a hockey stick home price index magically appearing over the next two years. No blame storming, not too much time checking the rear view mirror. Just true grit discussion on moving forward, what that could look like and potential impacts for future generations.
Another fantastic feature at the event was the “Twitter-esque” audience interaction. Each table had a laptop where the audience could anonymously ask panelists questions, make comments, sneer, jeer and engage one another on the topic at hand. And, periodically the rolling dialog would be projected on the screens be it for a good laugh or an intriguing comment.
Predictions of failure
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