How to Kill the Traditional Conference Model

Innovation guru Duncan Wardle tells us how to fix the meetings industry.

"I've just written a blog on why the conference industry needs to be completely blown up," Duncan Wardle, a renowned innovation and design-thinking consultant, told 100 planners and suppliers last week. "Why? Because nothing's changed since the first time I went to one in the '90s," he said, challenging the high-level participants in Northstar Meetings Group's annual Leadership Forum at The Cloister at Sea Island, Ga.

"It's coffee, then the keynote speaker. First the sponsor is on the stage; they speak too long. The keynote speaker doesn't have enough time. We promise time for Q&A but, oh, we've run out of time. We go to a break and then we come back to the Panel of Doom. How do you know it's the Panel of Doom? Because a third of the audience is on their cell phones."

As a professional speaker and trainer (represented by Goodman Speakers), Wardle sets one goal for himself: "If one person is on their cellphone I have failed. If people give you a day of their time, give them something back of value. Give them something back that's tangible." 

It's important that we give ourselves the time -- and the permission -- to develop revolutionary ideas, stressed Wardle, who spent 25 years with the Walt Disney Co., most recently as vice president of innovation and creativity. Making a conference dramatically more effective, he told Leadership Forum participants, can be as simple as rearranging room sets and having speakers spend an extra hour chatting.

Read the full story on for six innovative ideas on how to make your events more engaging and impactful.