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  • Writer's pictureRoy Jibrin

I recently attended an event, and writing this was not the reason I did.

Updated: Sep 2, 2023


Izabella Yena, under the spotlight from her brilliant performance in 'Kerosene' at Fortyfivedownstairs theatre in Melbourne* (Photo by the Author)
Izabella Yena, under the spotlight from her brilliant performance in 'Kerosene' at Fortyfivedownstairs theatre in Melbourne* (Photo by the Author)

I recently attended an event, not to write about it, but because the invitation grabbed my attention and I thought there was a lot to learn from such an industry-focused presentation.

In this article, I’ll share how the event unfolded. If you’re wondering what is the purpose of this article, here’s an alternative, more explanatory title: The ingredients for a successful industry event: Lessons learned from a disappointment.

 

The event was promising a presentation, more so, a revelation of a groundbreaking new approach for an old and haggard industry. Organized by an Australian based practice, the event was titled "Future placemaking: better tools for a dated industry. (rephrased)

The CEO of the practice began by highlighting the industry flaws, argumenting that everything needs to change moving forward. Because the approach that the industry had for years, is not applicable anymore.

He then showed examples of projects of their own work as successful case studies to learn from on how to approach future projects.

This part of the presentation was very vague and the only examples shown were positive examples, and promoting their own work and successes. I Couldn’t unsee the contradiction in his proposal and the only message communicated was that ‘they know better’ without any reasoning or points of comparison.

He then showed his disdain to the way placemaking ‘has been’ and outlined the causes that lead to this urgency for change. He gave two reasons: the impact of the pandemic and Artificial intelligence (AI).

Reasons that are affecting the entire world and every industry are not enough when presenting a drastic proposition to change an entire industry.

— On another note, everytime these topics are mentioned, I’m prompted to ponder why it is consistently brought up in discussions, both online and offline. Is it for ‘relevance’ or ‘broader reach’, mimicking our learned behavior online? —

Afterward, three panelists—a CEO of an educational social enterprise, a food journalist, and a sustainability consultant—were introduced. While the initial presentation discussed the industry globally, the host shifted the conversation to focus on specific neighborhoods in Melbourne. During the panel discussion, the panelists shared their knowledge of Melbourne, made light-hearted jokes about neighborhood preferences, and briefly touched upon topics related to social injustice and human rights. The event concluded after an hour.

The link there was, I assume, what makes Melbourne a city is its rich food and culture scene that developed over the years.

Unfortunately, none of the panelists expressed a definitive opinion on any topic, regardless of its significance. Their viewpoints were vague, often presenting both sides of an issue without taking a clear stance. Moreover, there was a tendency to overtly mention various equality and human rights topics without substantial relevance or necessity.

I was left questioning about the purpose of the event. While I understand it was part of a marketing campaign to position their practice as industry leaders. It seemed like for the panelists it was a platform to display their concern for social justice and public issues, resembling a political campaign where everyone says the right things without offering much.

Our world now tends to avoid criticism and favors praise for everything and everyone, as it is more agreeable and aligns with a better personal branding.

I had numerous questions swirling in my mind, but the vagueness of the event made it challenging to determine where to begin, instead I thought of a list of learnings to make an event beneficial:

  1. It is essential not to portray the event as a groundbreaking revelation if you cannot deliver on your promises. Underpromise and overdeliver. Don't make promises that you can't keep. Set realistic expectations for your event, and then exceed them. This will make your attendees happy and more likely to attend future events you host.

  2. It is important to know your topic, and allow the audience to engage in thoughtful reflection even after the event concludes. Focus on a specific topic. Don't try to cover too much ground. Choose a topic that you can delve into in depth, and make sure that all of the speakers and panelists are experts on that topic.

  3. Carefully select panelists who can provide valuable insights. Avoid having a group of individuals merely congratulating each other on their shared beliefs; it tends to disengage the audience. Select panelists with differing opinions. This will create a more stimulating and engaging discussion for your attendees. Avoid having a group of panelists who all agree with each other, as this will make the event boring.

  4. Address the proposition in the event title. If your event title makes a promise or proposition, make sure that you address it in the event itself. This will help to ensure that your attendees are getting what they came for. You have chosen it, so make sure it is something you can genuinely address.

  5. If the purpose of your event is to facilitate meaningful conversations, explicitly state that. State the purpose of the event. What do you hope to achieve with your event? Are you trying to educate, entertain, or inspire your attendees? Make sure that your purpose is clear to everyone involved. Conversations are inherently more captivating than empty pledges.

  6. Ensure there is room for debate. Encourage debate. A healthy exchange of ideas is essential for any successful event. Encourage your attendees to ask questions, challenge the speakers, and share their own opinions. This will help to create a more dynamic and interactive event experience. A healthy exchange of ideas serves as fertile ground for innovative thinking to flourish.


*The photo is for illustrative purposes. Under the spotlight, an actor tells stories that we might not relate to, but they capture our attention without any decor or props. Just real emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Perhaps it's something to keep in mind when hosting industry events.


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