This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

August 20, 2003

Transitions in Association Convention Programs

The slowed economy has significantly influenced attendance and programming at trade association conventions and conferences. Shrinking discretionary dollars inspire company officials to examine more carefully the value they expect in return for time, money, and energy to attend industry gatherings. Increasingly, they're focusing on what return they'll get for their investment.

Prospective attendees critically evaluate what knowledge, ideas, competitive intelligence, and tools they will gain from the conference experience. With the availability of videoconferencing and movement toward virtual trade shows on the web, where is the value of face-to-face communication?

Emphasis is on leading edge content. Attendees expect their meeting planners to select speakers who can deliver highly valuable and relevant content, while still applying effective delivery skills. They want something concrete to take home, to begin applying immediately for change and improved results. Executives insist on this design for their corporate meetings and expect to see the same mode at association conferences or they'll look elsewhere to invest their time and money.

One of the interesting shifts is away from big-name keynote speakers. While many organizations continue to use them because their names build attendance, prospective participants are seeing through this smoke screen. They encourage meeting planners to focus on sessions more aimed toward education instead of motivation. The move is toward higher content speakers who may be uplifting and inspirational, but they also deliver a lot of content.

Break-out or concurrent sessions will get more attention. Participants like the smaller group environments, particularly when they have an opportunity to interact with the subject matter expert and with colleagues. Increasingly, participants report that they treasure the opportunities to network with other members and with exhibitors. While they enjoy the social time, their objective is to gain new perspectives.

Business leaders spend a lot of time running in their corporate environment, just trying to keep up with high demands on their time. Conferences offer a break in the pace, and a chance to see what others are talking about, what they're doing, and what opportunities might be on the horizon. They'll insist on more intellectual stimulation, networking time, business issues.

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