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Conferences That Work
Design and facilitation of
innovative conference formats that reliably
build highly interactive, participant-led events,
leveraging attendee expertise and experience to
create exactly the conference that participants need and want.

"Simply the most productive conference I've been to."



Do you want to make your current face-to-face conference "can't miss" better, even as more and more content becomes available online? Are you wondering how to successfully start a new conference? Are your events suffering from falling attendance, evaluations, or profits? I can help!

I'll help you create engaging conferences around the learning your attendees really want and need. Conferences designed to build meaningful, mutually beneficial connections between participants. Conferences that help people work smarter and lead to action.

For over 25 years I've been designing and facilitating Conferences That Work: innovative, highly interactive, attendee-driven events that leverage attendees' expertise and experience to create just the conference that participants want. If desired, you can include traditional plenary sessions to create an event experience that will delight your attendees.

I consult on your conference (re)design, facilitate entire conferences, individual sessions, and session crowdsourcing, present regularly about participant-led and participation-rich events, and lead interactive workshops on participation techniques anyone can use to fundamentally improve their meetings and conference sessions.

I also offer three popular sessions—The Solution Room, The Personal Introspective, and The Group Spective—that provide powerful opportunities for participants to learn, connect, engage, and reflect at your event.

My 2009 book, Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love condenses 30 years experience designing, organizing, and facilitating conferences into an information-packed step-by-step guide to a proven design for creating productive conferences that people love.

My latest book, The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action, is a comprehensive guide to participation techniques that increase learning, connection, engagement, and outcomes at any conference session.

Contact me today to set up a consultation.

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Recent Peer Conference Calendar Additions

  • 20 Mar 2017 - 21 Mar 2017: Adrian workshop: Techniques for Turning Meeting Attendees Into Participants, Catalyst Ranch, 656 West Randolph Street #3W, Chicago, IL 60661.
    Adrian brings his expertise to the Midwest for this 1½ day workshop, a unique opportunity for you to: — learn how to make your conferences and conference sessions far more engaging and effective; — gain powerful meeting design insights; — significantly increase participation and satisfa
  • 25 Oct 2017 - 28 Oct 2017: FinCon peer conference for personal finance media, Dallas, TX.
    FinCon is a peer conference for personal finance media. 1,000+ of the best bloggers and financial minds around today participate to connect, learn to create compelling online content, and discover the latest trends in the world of personal finance. FinCon is an annual event with a dual mission:

For more upcoming events >>>>


From The Blog:

February 20, 2017

Lessons from Anguilla: What meeting designers can learn from religious services

On my daily vacation walk to Island Harbour, I hear singing. As I turn the corner onto Rose Hill Road, the sound swells. It’s 7:30 am, but the morning service at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church is in full swing and, as I pass, a familiar hymn from my youth washes over me, sung by a hundred enthusiastic voices. And yes, I admit it, during the second day of my vacation while enjoying the harmonies I hear, I’m jolted to think about religious meeting design…

Religious services are thought to be around 300,000 years old — by far the oldest form of organized meeting that humans have created. We know little about prehistory religious services, but the meeting designs used by the major world religions today date from the Middle Ages. Over the last thousand years, religious meetings developed a number of important features in order to maximize the likelihood that people would attend.

What’s interesting is that these features are largely absent from modern secular meetings!

So what can we learn from religious meeting design? I confine my observations to Christian and Jewish services, as they are the faiths familiar to me.

Don’t let any one person talk too long
The most frequent preaching length in Christian churches is 20 to 28 minutes. Although some pastors take more time, their number is decreasing. And in 2014, the Vatican recommended that sermons be limited to eight minutes or less!

While people joke about the length of boring sermons, contrast this relative brevity to modern conferences, where speakers typically speak for an hour. We know that listener attention drops sharply after ten minutes unless a speaker does specific things to maintain it. Religious institutions know this, and deliver short bursts of emotional content. Most meetings don’t, and attendee learning suffers as a consequence.

Include lots of communal activities
Singing is one of the most powerful fundamental, communal human activities; right up there with eating together. The oldest written music is a song, the Sumerian Hymn to Creation, dated before 800 B.C., and communal singing likely predates this by tens or hundreds of thousands of years.

Jewish and Christian religious services are filled with singing and praying. These are communal activities — each congregant contributes to a common endeavor. Some people have good voices, sing in harmony, and add pleasure to everyone’s experience. Even those who can’t carry a tune very well become part of something, a common endeavor, while they are singing a familiar and often beautiful hymn or prayer.

Communal activities are powerful because they align participants in a common experience: creating something beautiful and uplifting together. When was the last time you did something like that in a meeting?

Breaks aren’t communal activities
Most meeting organizers assume that the human interaction they’ve been told should be incorporated into their meetings is provided by breaks and socials. But breaks and socials aren’t communal activities — everyone is doing something different! The post-service Church Suppers and Jewish Kiddish give congregants time to meet socially, thus strengthening the communal experience provided by the service. In contrast, modern conferences expect attendees to bond after having primarily listened to lectures.

Keep ’em moving!
People don’t sit still at most religious services. They stand to sing and pray. In some congregations, dance is a normal component of the service. Physical movement during events is important because blood flow to the brain starts to decline within ten minutes of sitting still, leading to decreased attention. Sadly, it’s rare for meeting sessions to include any kind of body movement.

Provide an emotional experience
Whatever opinions you hold about religious services, it’s clear that they are designed to create an emotional experience. Given a choice between emotional and “book learning” experiences, people will invariably choose the former. Religious services offer the kinds of experiences that people prefer, served up in a safe and familiar way. Most conferences offer little emotional experience directly related to their content and purpose; instead such experiences — entertainment and socials — are glued onto the program as unintegrated extras.

Conclusions
I’m not suggesting that we turn all our meetings into gospel revivals. But think about it — how would your meetings be improved if they incorporated some of the religious services features I’ve shared here?

Church service photograph courtesy of The Anguillan

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