Event Planners: Jeff Hurt's Insights for Conference Planning in 2015

January 21, 2015

- Posted by Charles Hurley

Jeff Hurt

I reached out to Jeff Hurt a few weeks ago about the possibility of conducting a Q &A for our blog, and much to my surprise - he was more than willing! 


For those of you who don’t know, Jeff Hurt is the Executive Vice President at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. He has been planning meetings/conferences for 20+ years. During that time he has managed to become one of the best thought leaders within the event planning industry. If you’re not already, please subscribe to his blog, and follow him on Twitter for a daily dose of educational content. 


Jeff has also agreed to a video interview next month so please leave any questions you may have for him in the comments, and he’ll answer them during the next interview.


Jeff Hurt Q & A


Q:  How do you enhance the in-person experience so people will actually come to the event?

A: First, you have to program your content and education around the solutions to the problems keeping your target market up at night. Second, you have to focus on the learning design of your networking and education sessions. Networking cannot be just speed networking. And conference education cannot just be transmission of education. 


Q:  In contrast, how can event planners do a better job of enhancing the virtual experience?

A:  We have to plan and design a conference experience for two audiences: the face to face audience and the remote audience. Our remote audience doesn’t want to tune into a CSPANN experience just observing what is happening at the conference. They want to be part of that experience. So we have to pick speakers that facilitate two learning experiences at once—one for the remote audience and one for the face to face audience. 


Q:  I myself am a recent graduate of the traditional education system, and I feel that ‘transferring information’ is not an effective way to teach/learn. What’s your #1 tip for event planners so they can make sure their attendees actually learn during the conference/event?

A:  Ask speakers to cut their content that they are going to present in half. Then have them find three to four places to ask provocative, deep thinking questions and allow attendees time to reflect and share their thoughts in groups of two or three. 


Q:  What tools are you currently using to create better engagement for attendees?

A:  Old school tools of “Think, Write, Share” strategies. Not shiny tech objects. 


Q:  What’s the biggest trend you see for conferences in 2015?

A:  Conferences are becoming commoditized. The experiences are stale, out of touch with reality and too predictable. They have to become transformational, not just informational.


Q:  What are some easy to correct mistakes you see time and time again?

A:  Audience participation is not letting them ask the speaker questions at the end of the session. That’s still trying to control an attendee’s mind.


Q:  If you could give one solid tip to event planners - what would it be?

A:  Be strategic first! Always. Then go to logistics. The event is about the people, not your plan!


Q:  Is there a conference that you think is doing everything perfect?

A:  Ha, I doubt any conference is perfect. However, there are some that are doing some interesting things and continuing to improve. I like the Reimaginging Education Summits that provide very threaded experiences and demonstrate 21st century models of adult education and professional development. Their “Ideas in Action” conference experiences provide an experience around an idea, the action and then the next steps. Smart conference planning on their part.


Again, I’d like to thank Jeff for being so cordial and willing to contribute to the Brilliant Blog. As mentioned, please include any questions you’d like Jeff to answer in the comments section below. 


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Topics: Corporate Events, Event Planners

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