Con­fer­ence Conges­tion

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I LOVE liv­ing in Syd­ney, de­spite the traf­fic. But over the years, af­ter too many ner­vous car trips, curs­ing at the traf­fic and wor­ry­ing I might run late for a job or a meet­ing, I’ve changed my ap­proach. I leave an hour for travel. Un­less I’m head­ing some­where very close and I am sure there won’t be traf­fic, I sim­ply build in an hour to my sched­ule.

The CBD is about 10 kms away from home (my Maps App says it is a 22 minute jour­ney by car) – but I leave an hour. The air­port should be a 40 minute drive, but I al­ways leave an hour. As a re­sult, zero stress and I’m never late. No time-wast­ing be­cause with mo­bile de­vices, if I ar­rive early (which hap­pens 50% of the time) I grab a quick cof­fee or sit in the comfy of­fice lounges in the foyer and get on with my work, the same work I would have done in my of­fice be­fore I left.

So, what does my ob­ses­sion with time man­age­ment and stress re­lief have to do with con­fer­enc­ing? Well, the ma­jor­ity of con­fer­ences I MC or speak at are guided by agen­das that don’t fac­tor in the re­al­ity of how long things usu­ally take. They fail to take into account the re­al­ity of “con­fer­ence traf­fic,” the in­evitable road blocks that make a con­fer­ence run over­time.

That 8.30am start is likely to get pushed back to 8.40 be­cause ,sur­prise sur­prise, when we opened the doors at 8.25, it took 10 min­utes to usher the 350 del­e­gates into the con­fer­ence room and that didn’t even in­clude the 37 peo­ple who were not go­ing to lose their place in the cof­fee queue for nei­ther love nor latte. That “short open­ing video” took three min­utes but wasn’t ac­counted for in the Run Sheet. The CEO’s 10 minute open­ing ad­dress ran for 15 min­utes and who is go­ing to cut him short?

It takes a good MC at least two min­utes to tran­si­tion from one ses­sion to an­other, but that was not taken into account in the run sheet and those short minute tran­si­tions need to be mul­ti­plied by the num­ber of speak­ers in the day. Let alone, that speaker who runs over­time, ig­nor­ing all at­tempts to get him off stage and the fact that you can’t feed 350 peo­ple at the buf­fet in the 30 min­utes we had al­lowed for lunch.

So, in the same way that I over-es­ti­mate how long it takes me to get into the city and build in some fat so I run on time, I al­ways ad­vise con­fer­ence or­gan­is­ers (and the client them­selves who of­ten have un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions) to over-es­ti­mate ev­ery­thing. So, for ex­am­ple, to al­low an hour for a 45 minute ses­sion. Al­low for at least an hour for lunch. As­sume there will be “traf­fic.”

Worse-case sce­nario, the con­fer­ence day ends early, which will de­light the del­e­gates, as you’ve given them the free time they crave.

Don’t let that traf­fic turn your con­fer­ence into a car­crash.

If you are look­ing for an MC for your next con­fer­ence or a speaker/trainer on pre­sen­ta­tion skills or pitch­ing skills, email an­ or visit his web­site at­drewk­

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