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Less Is More Applies to Conferences, Too
I was at the Authority Rainmaker Conference today and it's been a great conference. The speakers have delivered insightful ideas and, even better, have made their presentations relevant to the context of the audience. You'd think it would be a given that speakers would do that, but alas, that's not always the case.
As I was listening to the presenters, I was also watching other attendees furiously taking notes in their computers and notebooks. It was as if the words being spoken were the last bit of oxygen people had available - they wanted to take it all in.
When I see this happen, I always wonder how effective a practice it is. There's no exam at the end of the conference, and what I've more often seen is that people get even more overwhelmed by all of the great ideas they have that either they don't know how to execute or they then need to sort through later (someday/maybe alert!) when they have a chance to process everything they've absorbed. And they're taxed at the end of all of the content, and then dive headlong into interacting with more people than our forebears met in a year.
What I've learned since I left school is that it's far more effective (for me) to instead be actively listening, reading, or watching to see what might apply to me. It turns out that two or three ideas per presentation, webinar, or book is all I need and all I can actually do anything with, anyway (for most presentations, webinars, or books).
So, rather than hanging on every great word Chris Brogan said, I'm now thinking about how I can better implement content upgrades and trusting that the resources I'm converting in non-converting media fit into the fold the way I hope they do.
Dan Pink has me thinking about how I can use interrogative questions to improve my pre-performance rehearsals. And that it's time for me to re-read Cialdini's Influence. (By the way, Cialdini's book is one of those that merit being reread every other year or so.)
Jerod Morris has me thinking about how to amplify the authenticity of the Creative Giant Show, which is probably getting me closer to actually adding solo riffs as part of the format.
Sonia Simone has me thinking about experimenting with how I ask you to take the next action on my landing pages.
At the end of the conference, I'll have 10--15 ideas I'll need to follow up on, and because I've chunked so few concepts from each person, a quick look at the conference agenda will usually trigger those ideas. In a nice touch, the Copyblogger Media team designed their nametag/agenda books to have some white space at the end of them, so it'll be handy to drop those takeaways there and process them on the way home.
The trick to conferences is finding the right balance of content consumption and authentic connection with the people you meet; at a deeper level, this is about managing cognitive and social loads. Attempting to capture everything is about as effective as trying to meet everyone. In almost all cases, I've been better served by listening for the 10--15 ideas that are relevant to what I'm working on and leaning into the moments that will develop stronger relationships with the 10--15 people with whom I want to be in community.
Which is all a long way of saying that less is more in conferences, too.