What makes a great conference?

I’ll admit that I’m a cynic when it comes to conferences. I’m sure you’ve been to the events where most people are there to network and that the sessions and workshops lend an air of legitimacy to what might otherwise a boondoggle in San Diego, or Las Vegas.

I’ve been to plenty where networking was the most valuable thing I took away and while that isn’t necessarily bad, I’d like to see more information sharing and be inspired, not just more connected.

When I find myself sitting at the back, close to the door, thinking about potential tax deductions, I know I’ve gone over the conference edge, into the abyss of wasted time. I’m thinking about the next meal, or the best moment to escape to the hallway.

On the other side, the best conferences I’ve attended leave me better prepared to be great at what I do. I feel inspired and challenged. I end up with a long list of really interesting things I could be doing in the coming days, weeks and months.

Topics

The biggest challenge of attending conferences is finding the ones that matter topic-wise. How often have you had to wade through the myriad of IT-facing applications, expert tools in the hands of experts, and solutions that simply can’t scale for an enterprise.

I want conferences to be about making enterprises, down to the last person, better at business and not about esoteric topics that target CIO’s. I’d like to see my everyday challenges being projected on the big screens and the takeaways to be actionable.

Location

I want my conference locations to be interesting and to reflect creativity by the planners. There are so much more interesting places to meet than yet another sterile hotel, with windowless conference rooms and cookie-cutter catering.

For those of us who travel a great deal, just getting out of a hotel is a big step up. Museums, theaters and historic sites make excellent places. And have it near the center of a city where people can find nearby restaurants and other attractions. Most people like to have choices, even if the conference facility and hotel are excellent.

Attendees

More than anything, the other attendees should be people I can relate with. They might be higher or lower on their respective work totem pole, but I’d like them to be in a similar business and facing similar challenges. We’re not all the same, but being a fish out of water in a conference is a tough experience.

Presentations

More TED-style presenting, less PowerPoint…can I get an, “amen”?

Entertainment

All work and no play doesn’t work, either. It is much more interesting to get to know others while taking a break from nonstop business discussion. I’ve seen great improv, bands and other entertainment put sparkle into an event.

The exception

I’m happy to say there’s an exception to my take on conferences when it comes to Inspiring Performance, held every September in London. This year’s takes place on September 27th and 28th at The Brewery and if it is anything close to last year, will be an excellent place to learn about real business process management from the inside…from the people who have implemented in their own enterprises and are there to learn more.

I’ll be hosting my customer, Northrop Grumman, and hopefully one other that you’ll immediately recognize, and will be co-presenting on Frameworks and Integrated Compliance Management with APQC’s John Tesmer. The topics will be appropriate, the location will be excellent, and the attendees will be people just like you. The entertainment will be unique and outstanding.

I hope to see you there!

Chris Taylor joined Nimbus in 2009 as VP Consulting Americas, and leads a team of business process improvement consultants who serve major corporations across the world. Chris’s clients include Nestlé, Cisco, Northrop Grumman, ThyssenKrupp and many others, who use Business Process Management (BPM) tools and techniques to drive process standardisation, improvement, quality and compliance initiatives. His insight to what makes BPM a sustainable success for so many client organisations makes him a valuable industry commentator. Before joining Nimbus, Chris held senior consulting and leadership roles focused on business transformation with ILOG (now IBM), Perot Systems and Accenture. In his early career, Chris managed aircrew and flight operations while flying for the US Navy. He is an avid skier, hiker and sailor and spends most of his off time exploring the mountains and coasts near his home in Southern California and the rest of the world.