I love exploring a new conference–from my first year in Davos as a DV (Davos Virgin), the mammoth Vegas pharma convention stage, and  sipping tea in sandals with Tim O’Reilly at one of his many events, to countless annual corporate sales gatherings at Disney World (not the happiest place on Earth).

 

But each memorable moment aside, the content, objectives and impact that the organizers work so hard to craft, often get muddled together. I found myself frequently leaving events wondering what I actually learned, and how it will benefit all of us going forward.

Summits, conventions, conferences and events add up to a trillion dollar business worldwide. They are critical to the intersection of communities with widespread reach and yet, with so much potential, what are participants actually walking away with aside from a few spectacular moments of entertainment? Are they are operating today similar to the disparate taxi companies of yesteryear that provide little more value than delivering a captive audience from points A to B, without ever connecting; missing their full potential.

Over the last 5 years, I began taking notes; recording every important point from panel and keynote presentations, interesting conversations during networking lunches and break out sessions, details on every conference app ‘that’s going to be a game changer’. Nearly every experience, and what it left me with (sliding down the hill in toboggans after raclette and wine in Davos will be hard to beat!), and every person I have met (Bjorn Borg wins, hands-down) has been indexed. Friends and strangers laugh at me as I furiously type my notes into a database, tagging and tracking my experiences.

The laughter, stares and pangs of carpal tunnel were well worth it, as the output has been nothing shy of transformative.

I continue to attend conferences but I now often know who-knows-whom when I walk into a room. I can usually pinpoint who is blocking information. It’s clear before they open their mouths who the “talkers ” are whose contributions end at talking. I can help connect most people in the room without being a bottleneck. I have become the hypothesis. The results of my own simulations, that provide me with a gameplan to get the most of out each conference experience, now come with a data trail to back me up. There are apps that help you remember people by time and place, but my experimental database takes it further, allowing me to remember people by their clothing type, shared experiences, age of their children and other detailed information.

Why am I sharing this?

Because events; whether big meetings, conferences, or team summits, are primed to be dramatically improved. In tests with the World Economic Forum, we were able to run simulations with cohorts of 100 participants to see how many people could meaningfully impact another person with their skills and/or network. The short of it was transformative: only 4 out of 100 people can actually help another person achieve one of their conference objectives. So think about that: what are your odds of actually meeting those 4 people? And should you, by chance, connect with those 4 people, what are the odds that you actually talk about the elements that can help each of you succeed, versus getting hung up in the ‘getting-to-know-yous’ or the weather or conference swag convo?

There is no game changing app that can help with this. And the answer doesn’t lie in identifying better speakers, or venues, or breakouts, or tracking badges, or landing a famous cover band. Those become beneficial only once each attendee has a personalized conference journey aimed at understanding their objectives, needs and wants. And the ability to  help them succeed in achieving these goals in the few short days they spend with you. This shift in how conferences, events and summits are delivered can have incredible influence on the careers, and overall success, of each participant. It changes the paradigm on how we all meet and engage with one another, which not only leaves an indelible memory as to benefit of the conference, but has far reaching impact on future relationships, ideas and opportunities.

Interested in trying your hand at creating intelligent connections at your next gathering? We invite you to take a look at TeamCreator, which lets you, the organizer control the dynamics of your participants by matching business objectives to individuals’ personal profiles, history, goals, and a whole host of other data.

Of course, while data can play a big role in how we design our events, it is only one component that will help us create the impact we all desire in the conference/event space. I look forward to hearing from you about the observations you’ve made and ideas you have about transforming the industry — looking forward to collaborating with you on Twitter: @collaborateking.

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