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Leadership conferences that deliver real business value

Jane Mitchell

You’ve secured the investment, agreed the purpose, booked a great venue and saved the date in your leadership team diaries. So now what?

How are you going to ensure that your business gets maximum value from bringing together your most senior people in one room for a couple of days? How will you unlock the collective power of their expertise, knowledge and experience to really move the business forward?

In my experience, four key ingredients make the difference between a truly successful leadership conference and a feel-good but ultimately hollow event.

1.    Think like a ‘producer’

A great event should intrigue, interest and involve people so that energy levels and participation are constantly high. However, to ‘spread the load’, a common mistake is to split the day into chunks owned by different people with specialist content knowledge. The result is usually ‘death by powerpoint’, little linkage between sessions and a huge range in the quality of output. Yes, have content specialists, but also have one person acting as overall ‘producer’. Someone who is thinking about the whole conference story, ensuring there is a clear message thread, and creating a constant flow of energy by mixing up channels, activities, and movement.

2.    Conversations with meaning

You’ve got your top 100 brains together in the room and you need to get those brains working for the benefit of the business. ‘Tell’, ‘tell’, ‘tell’,  with a sprinkling of Q&A is not the answer. Conversations that create debate about the real challenges affecting your business are. Provide simple discussion tools to harness collective brain power and ensure everyone is thinking and contributing.

3.    An exec team that leads by example

Get the exec team involved – and that doesn’t mean getting them to dress up and morris dance on-stage or rolling out one or two of the team to make the opening and closing speeches. This is an opportunity for the whole team to demonstrate leadership – answering difficult questions, honestly debating issues and inspiring with personal stories and insights.

4.    Facilitation that challenges

Involve a facilitator who has the gravitas and experience to enable rich conversations, share relevant stories and challenge superficial soundbites. Keeping the conference running to time and on track is great, but the real skill is in reading the room, not sticking rigidly to an agenda.

What are your top four tips for great leadership events?

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