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Happy to Seize the Throne from King Content

June 26th, 2017 by Adrian Segar

Honored to be included on MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list, which “recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways”. Here’s the description of my “quest to topple outdated models, including the one based on the idea that ‘content is king’.”

Making Change
I’ve spent 25 years working on changing outmoded mindsets about what we should be doing in meetings. Historically, topics had to be determined in advance, the meeting format was mainly lecture and did not encourage interaction, and content was king. To stay effective and relevant today, meetings must:

  • Respond to what participants actually want and need to learn
  • Adapt to the reality that we primarily learn from our peers rather than experts
  • Provide appropriate opportunities to connect with relevant peers in the sessions around content

And it is changing. The meetings industry is far more aware of the importance of treating and supporting attendees as active participants rather than passive consumers of education. You see this in the increasing number of industry articles about good meeting process, the rise of the term “meeting design” being applied to the group process we use in sessions as opposed to, say, F&B or production design.

I don’t take full credit, of course, for these changes, but I feel proud to have been an instigator and passionate promoter of them through speaking, and authoring Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love and The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action. I also moderated the #eventprofs Twitter chats for several years, and until recently, ran the weekly #Eventprofs Happy Hour Hangout for meeting professionals.

What’s Next
I am now writing another book with the working title of The Little Book of Event Crowdsourcing, and I’m starting to offer workshops where meeting professionals, designers, and stakeholders can learn first-hand about the power of the participatory techniques I’ve written about and use. And I continue to design and facilitate meetings, which is perhaps the most effective way to change mindsets: exposing participants to what meetings can be like when you adopt a participant-driven and participation-rich approach.

Best Business Advice
One of my mentors, Jeannie Courtney, taught me to trust my intuition and helped me see the power and joy that is possible when I respond to opportunity rather than what I used to think of as taking a risk by trying something new—and scary. Like much of my most important learning, that change of perspective happened experientially, rather than from a piece of advice.

Got a Spare Hour?
I would do yoga and meditation if I haven’t yet fit them into my day. I like to read a wide variety of nonfiction, mysteries, and science fiction. And I am active in my local nonprofit communities—I’ve been running or on the board of multiple associations continuously for over 30 years.

The interpersonal dynamics of silent retreats

June 19th, 2017 by Adrian Segar

Can meetings where no one says a word exhibit significantly different interpersonal dynamics? After completing my third Vipassana silent meditation retreat (this one at the headquarters of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts), I’m gonna say: yes they can!

Read the rest of this entry »

Design your meeting BEFORE choosing the venue!

June 12th, 2017 by Adrian Segar

I love my meeting design clients, but there is one mistake I see them making over and over again.

Clients invariably ask me to help design their meeting after they’ve chosen a venue! Here’s why they do it, and why it’s a mistake. Read the rest of this entry »

Create Powerful Meetings Instead of Power-over Meetings

June 5th, 2017 by Adrian Segar

All meetings incorporate power relationships that fundamentally affect their dynamics and potential. Traditional conferences unconsciously promote and sustain power imbalances between the “speakers” at the front of the room and the audience. Such events invoke a version of power Tom Atlee calls Power-over: “the ability to control, influence, manage, dominate, destroy, or otherwise directly shape what happens to someone or something”.

People often tolerate this form of power on their lives (or seek to wield it) because they hold an underlying belief that when you lose control everything turns to chaos. Meeting stakeholders and planners typically subscribe to this viewpoint because they can’t conceive of (usually because they’ve never experienced) a form of meeting that successfully uses a different kind of power relationship: Power-with. Read the rest of this entry »

Reassuring news for event professionals from WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com

May 31st, 2017 by Adrian Segar

Reassuring news for event professionals from WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com

Six ways to keep attendees comfortable and improve your event

May 29th, 2017 by Adrian Segar

While stuck in cramped seats during a six-hour Boston to San Francisco flight recently, my wife gently pointed out that I had become quite grumpy. She helped me notice that my lack of body comfort was affecting my mood. Luckily for me, Celia remained solicitous and supportive, reducing my grouchiness, and once we were off the wretched plane my spirits lightened further.

Unfortunately, I tend to be oblivious for a while of the effects of physical discomfort on my feelings. Until I notice what’s really upsetting me, I typically and unfairly blame my irritability on innocent culprits, for example:

  • The tediousness of gardening because insects are swarming around my head.
  • The delay in waiting for my food to arrive in a noisy restaurant.
  • A presenter’s inability to capture my full attention while I’m sitting with my neck twisted permanently towards him in an auditorium.

I suspect I’m not alone in these errors of judgment. Pivoting to the world of events, this means if we want to give attendees the best possible experience, we need to minimize the quantity and severity of physical comfort issues that are under our control.

Here are six common mistakes you’ve probably experienced, together with suggestions for mitigating their impact. (Feel free to add more in the comments below!) Read the rest of this entry »

22 great iPhone/iPad apps for event professionals

May 22nd, 2017 by Adrian Segar

App_Store

Two years have passed since the last update of my favorite iPad/iPhone apps for event professionals. Apps continue to be born, evolve, and, sometimes, die—so it’s time for my latest list of event professionals’ great apps! Read the rest of this entry »

Practice what you teach

May 15th, 2017 by Adrian Segar


When I’m presenting and sharing my conviction that experiential learning is far superior to broadcast learning, it would be pretty hypocritical for me to lecture. It would also be pretty ineffective. As Stephen Jenkinson says:

“…when expressed properly, teachings don’t function as symbols or metaphors…they are an incarnation of what they are advocating.”
—Stephen Jenkinson, On How We Deny Our Mortality, The Sun Magazine

“Teachings are an incarnation of what they are advocating.” I’m glad to see that this point of view is being championed in the educational community , under the rubric of recursive practice, and I hope to see a wider awareness of its importance as the years pass.

In the meantime, if you come to one of my workshops or presentations you won’t find me talking to you uninterrupted for more than five to ten minutes max. That’s how I practice what I teach.

A new kind of association service — Open Collective

May 8th, 2017 by Adrian Segar

A new association service, Open Collective, offers an intriguing way to raise funds and provide radical financial transparency to members.

I like to think of an association as a group of people with a shared mission, the incarnation of a community of practice. Open Collective supports communities of practice like meet ups and open source developers that can benefit from an open administrative and financial structure, but the service could be used by any association that wants to outsource fund raising and offer financial transparency on how funding is raised and spent.

Here’s how it works.

Fund raising
Open Collective makes it easy to request funds for specific activities or goals (example). You can quickly create a sharable link to the request, which can be one-time or monthly. Flexible donation tiers allow you to create named donation levels, like “backers” or “sponsors” and feature them appropriately on your website. You can also sell tickets to events (currently in beta).

One interesting feature allows an umbrella organization to empower local or networked chapters/projects to raise money and have their own budget, without having to open a separate bank account for each one.

Financial transparency
Unpaid expenses and available funds can be seen by all members (example). Definable (and changeable) core members can approve or reject submitted expenses (example). Anyone can see the money flow in and out of the organization.

Cost
From the website: “Open Collective takes 10% of the money raised by the collective for managing bookkeeping, taxes, and admin (fiscal sponsorship), as well as providing your Open Collective page and the software it runs on. We share this commission with the fiscal sponsor (legal owner of the bank account that holds the money on behalf of the collective). Additionally, our payment processors charge a fee, usually 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.”

This seems reasonable, though it’s not clear how the commission sharing works. The non-profit service Network for Good charges a 5% administrative fee (which includes payment processing charges) for donations, but Open Collective offers many more services than just accepting donations.

More information
As I write this, Open Collective is supporting over two hundred organizations with a combined annual budget of over half a million dollars, and you need to apply to join; it’s not automatically open to anyone who signs up. A two-part article by one of the founders (formerly cofounder/CEO of Storify.com) offers a useful summary of the history and philosophy of Open Collective.

What I think
For the first ten years of its existence, a non-profit association edACCESS I co-founded in 1991 was run informally under the auspices of another non-profit. Because the group was committed to transparency right from the start (our books were always open for anyone to see) Open Collective would have been very helpful for managing edACCESS’s finances.

While a structure like this isn’t appropriate for every non-profit, I think the service offers a novel approach to supporting communities that want to be financially transparent. It could be especially useful for localities that want to support citizen-created collectives using shared infrastructure (example: the city of Brussels). If it fits for you, Open Collective is well worth investigating.

How to become one with your association’s strategic goals

May 1st, 2017 by Adrian Segar

No, I’m not suggesting you rise at 5 a.m. and recite your association’s strategic plan as your daily morning mantra. But I’d like you to try this simple test:

How many of your association’s strategic goals can you recall right now?

(No cheating! And not the easy bits about your vision, mission, who you serve, or your programs and services — just your goals!)

I’ll wait…

Was that a little embarrassing? You’re not alone — when I tried this recently, I was pretty embarrassed too!

Read the rest of this entry »

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