What Makes Conferences Work? - Q&A with Adrian Segar

Juhi Purswani
February 13, 2019

QnA with Event Industry Influencer, Author and Founder of Conferences That Work – Adrian SegarAmazed by the modern concept of organizing conferences and ideas that change the concept of corporate meetings planning; we approached Adrian Segar to discuss his work!Adrian Segar is not only an event industry influencer but the author of 2 bestselling books for event professionals and event enthusiasts – Conferences That Work and The Little Book of Event Crowdsourcing Secrets. He is a meeting designer, facilitator and has also been acknowledged as one of the most innovative Events Professional by BizBash Magazine.He currently resides in Marlboro, Vermont and has earned a Physics B.A as Postmaster at Merton College, Oxford. You can reach out to him on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

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Here’s a QnA round with the Author Adrian Segar:1. As an event industry influencer, what’s your typical day like?There’s no typical day (and that’s a good thing!)When I’m in my home office I concentrate on:

  • Writing: blog posts (one a week for the last nine years) and finishing my third book (The Little Book of Event Crowdsourcing Secrets, to be published this year!)
  • Consulting: phone/video conferences with clients about their meeting design needs
  • Social media outreach: I automatically post one of my 500+ evergreen meeting design blog posts on Twitter every couple of hours, share my latest post every week, and regularly initiate/join conversations about a wide range of meeting industry topics.
  • Taking frequent breaks: I enjoy the beautiful Vermont landscape that surrounds me!

I’m often on the road consulting face-to-face with clients, attending meeting industry events, and (my favorite) facilitating participant-driven, participation-rich meetings.2. How did you land up with the idea of “Conferences That Work”? That’s a long story. The condensed version is that I founded a conference in 1992 for a brand new area. As a result, there were no known experts to invite to speak. We realized that the attendees, collectively were the experts, but we didn’t know each other, or what we wanted to learn and discuss, or who had useful expertise and experience. So I designed a conference where we began by finding out the answers to these questions and then built a program based on what we uncovered. The process was a great success, and that conference is now in its 26th year. Over the following years, people asked me to design and facilitate other meetings, and, because attendees loved the resulting conferences, I eventually wrote Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love, which was published in 2009. That book catapulted me abruptly and enjoyably into the meeting industry!3.What are the biggest challenges that you face in your line of work?I’d say the three biggest challenges are:

  • Although it’s getting easier, because more and more people have experienced the tremendous benefits of participant-driven and participation-rich meeting design, it’s still sometimes difficult to convince top management to improve their events by incorporating these principles into their existing meetings.
  • I see meeting planners make understandable (but avoidable) mistakes when attempting to incorporate good design approaches into their meetings. Flawed implementations lead to substandard outcomes, and the “experiment” with participant-driven and participation-rich design is then labeled a failure and rejected for future events.
  • The meeting industry is still too narrowly focused on high-tech, expensive, and often glitzy “solutions” to meeting problems, rather than adopting inexpensive and more cost-effective “human technology” meeting process to improve events. It’s like we’re pushing expensive sodas instead of offering healthier tap water.

4. What’s your take on the rapidly evolving event technology? Which tech is your current favorite?I suspect you can predict my answer! Changing the process we use at our meetings — allowing attendees to make many valuable connections by learning about each other at the start, giving them the ability to choose what they want to talk about and discuss, including closing process that supports post-event learning and change and that creates conference community — is the simplest and most effective technology change we can make to significantly improve our meetings.All you need to do this is skillful meeting design and facilitation from people experienced in human process technology, and some very inexpensive low-technology items.5.What according to you makes a conference that is attendee-driven?It’s simple. An attendee-driven conference is one that turns into what the participants want and need it to be. Once you’ve experienced that this is possible and how well it works, most people want future conferences they attend to be designed this way. My first two books (Conferences That Work and The Power of Participation) describe how to do this in detail.6.On a scale of 1 to 10, how much the mindset of the event planners has changed with the idea of interactive and attendee-centered conferences? Well, until 25 years ago just about all meetings would be rated a 1. These days I’d give meeting planners a 5 for awareness — but a 2 for implementation! To be fair, as I mentioned above, our clients are sometimes the ones standing in the way of implementing interactive and attendee-centered conferences.7.Are there any event planning organizations that have stood up to the idea/concept of peer conferences and helped in implementing it?All the major meeting planning associations have acknowledged the importance of incorporating more participation into meetings and giving attendees the opportunity to create and lead conference programs that are truly relevant and useful. However, few meeting planners have the required experiential learning and training needed to successfully implement these valuable skills. Currently, such education is rarely made available.Meeting associations need to incorporate this vital education into their core curricula, by providing regular opportunities for planners to learn how to design and facilitate participant-driven and participation-rich meetings.

Stay tuned with us on our blog to read about some great features ahead! You can connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Juhi Purswani

Juhi Purswani is a major in Information Technology. Currently a Content Developer in Hubilo, she is a passionate writer and loves to research and explore new and unique topics. Working in an event-tech company, she is getting accustomed to the technological revolutions that are taking place in the event management industry. Fond of Dan Brown books, she is an avid reader of fiction. In her relaxation moments, she pens down her thoughts in the form of poems and quotes. You can follow her on twitter on @19_juhi.

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