RISMEDIA, April 8, 2008-If a business need exists, however obscure it may be, there is probably a conference that addresses it. But will it really get the job done? If you’re like most businesspeople, you probably view conferences with a skeptical eye. Sure, they claim to be great opportunities to learn more about industry changes and gain valuable insights on how to get ahead. But if you’ve ever performed your own post-conference review, you’ve probably found that those are empty promises. What you are guaranteed is a couple of days out of the office, hundreds of dollars spent on travel, hotels, and registration fees-and the discovery that, back in the real world, you have no idea how to implement what you learned.
Well, the conference gods have finally gotten the message that the wasteful old ways don’t fit the lean & mean ethos of the 21st century. A new style of conference has arisen from more-bang-for-the-buck attendee demands, and it’s guaranteed to help you make business-improving changes-just in time for the economic slow down.
“Money is tight right now,” says Byron Mignanelli, managing director and cofounder of the Global Strategic Management Institute. “CEOs and managers are less willing to spend money on conferences that provide them with little ROI. And rightfully so! Now there is a new style of conference that gives all attendees their money’s worth-and then some.”
This new style of conference is the result of the long relationship Mignanelli has had with David F. Giannetto, who, as the director of Cohn Consulting Group’s Enterprise Performance Management Practice, is one of the most experienced practitioners and thought leaders in the Enterprise and Business Performance Management arena.
As a speaker at many traditional conferences, Giannetto-who is also coauthor along with Anthony Zecca of The Performance Power Grid: The Proven Method to Create and Sustain Superior Organizational Performance (Wiley, 2006, ISBN: 0-470-05144-2, $27.95)-didn’t feel he was able to truly help attendees significantly improve the performance of their organizations. Knowing Mignanelli’s experience putting together traditional-style conferences and the power of his new media firm, GSMI, Giannetto knew he would be the perfect person to help him bring his idea of a new style of conference to fruition.
“Time after time I would leave after presenting at a conference feeling like the attendees didn’t have any way of implementing the things I was teaching them,” says Giannetto. “So many conferences simply give attendees multiple perspectives and sales pitches without teaching them how to take what they’ve learned and apply it in a practical sense when they get back to the office. I presented those concerns to Byron, along with my idea for this new conference format, and it took just that one conversation for him to say, ‘Let’s do it.’”
These “next generation” conferences set themselves apart from their forebears by helping participants take the theory they learn during the event and apply it in a practical sense to their own organizations. In other words, participants get a “running start” that makes the time and money spent at the conference well worth it. Rather than just drawing you a map to future success, conference leaders actually get in the car with you and coach you as you drive the first leg of your journey.
Mignanelli will be kicking off the first of the Create Conference Series events in Orlando, Florida, June 2-4, 2008, with the Sustaining Superior Performance Summit, hosted by Giannetto. The event is designed with content for everyone from CEOs to financial analysts to managing directors and more, helping them improve the performance of their own organizations. Depending on their area of expertise, attendees can take part in tracks that focus on modern management theory and methodology, process, and technology.
“Rather than provide a little information and multiple perspectives on a wide variety of business topics, which can often confuse attendees, the new conferences provide in-depth information on one topic-how to create sustainable superior performance within your own organization,” says Giannetto. “The conference topic is broken down into three different tracks that provide attendees with the answers, tools, and techniques that do more than just educate them. Attendees actually start creating change for their organizations at the conference so they can hit the ground running when they get back to the office.”
This next generation of conferences provides an all-around more profitable experience for attendees. No time or money is wasted at the conference, because after the conference your organization is sure to change for the better. Here are just a few of the benefits of this new style of conference:
Tangible deliverables and takeaways. Many times businesspeople attend conferences and are very excited about what they’ve learned, but when they get back to the office, they aren’t quite sure how to incorporate everything they learned into their daily operations. And it’s even more difficult for them to make those who didn’t attend the conference understand what they learned and why it’s important to implement changes in their organization. The biggest and most important difference between the next generation of conferences and conferences of old is that now providing tangible deliverables and takeaways for attendees is a priority.
“Attendees actually create the first deliverables for change at their organizations while still at the conference,” says Giannetto. “They analyze their own organizations against a common conference framework, and use each session to bring them one step closer to taking their performance to a new level. When they return to their offices, they can jump right in and take the next step. They won’t have to start from ground zero. Managers and owners can now know that the money they spent on attending a conference was money well spent.”
Attendees learn from the best (and also each other). Any conference worth its salt is packed with some of the most well-known and accomplished people specializing in the conference’s topic. And all of those same industry practitioners, management theorists, experienced implementers, and thought leaders will be a part of the next generation of conferences. The difference is in how attendees get to interact with them. In addition to making keynote speeches and leading sessions, these industry experts will take part in what Mignanelli calls a “Create Conversation”-a political-style debate that makes facilitated panel discussions look like a thing of the past. During these conversations attendees get to hear from one another while picking the brains of some of the best in the business in a casual and conversational environment.
You’ll hear how other companies have gotten it done. Sometimes in the business world it’s easier to follow someone else’s lead rather than blaze your own trail. It’s that reasoning that has made company case studies such an important part of the next generation of conferences. “Delegates will learn from leaders of some of today’s leading organizations who have actually traveled down this path within their own organizations,” says Giannetto. “These speakers show attendees that there are many ways to approach solving problems within business today and that there is no one magic bullet-as long as you have the right foundation. And that’s what we’re trying to d allow the delegates to build that foundation at the conference, so they are more effective when they return to their organizations.”
The conference trains your employees for you. The old school of conferences often does a great job at educating attendees, but “education” alone is rarely effective. “The new school takes things a step further: Instead of simply educating attendees, they focus on helping attendees use what they are learning to create change in their own organizations,” says Giannetto. “Conference delegates are essentially being trained on how their area of the business fits into the overall picture, regardless of whether they deal with organizational development, training and development, corporate finance, or any other area of your business.”
These new conferences take “networking” to a higher level. Sure, every conference provides an opportunity to network. Throw a bunch of businesspeople together from the same industry, and they are bound to get acquainted. But not every conference begins that process before you even arrive at the facility. The new conference business model incorporates an electronic meeting system that gives attendees the opportunity to opt-in during registration. Then two weeks prior to the event, conference organizers will send out meeting information so that attendees can start developing their meeting schedule before they arrive.
“That way when you get to the conference you’ll already have a great working relationship with fellow attendees,” says Mignanelli. “And you’ll build on those relationships during the sessions you attend, as you all work together to bring change to your individual organizations.”
“Not only does this new style of conference represent the next generation in educating and training managers, owners, and employees, it also represents a new and improved way of making changes in your business,” says Giannetto. “The Create Conference Series is set up so that they provide superior value to attendees by truly helping them connect the dots in a complicated, cash-strapped business world. We’re setting a new standard for business conferences, and any company that joins in is sure to start down the road to transformation and unprecedented financial success.”
David F. Giannetto is the director of Cohn Consulting Group’s Enterprise Performance Management Practice, and has been with J.H. Cohn LLP since 1999. He is responsible for helping client organizations improve operation efficiency, management effectiveness, customer satisfaction, and systems integration through the implementation of the latest performance management methodologies. Prior to this, he was an operations manager and quality auditor for Airborne Express Freight Corporation (currently DHL) at locations throughout northern New Jersey and New York City.
Byron Mignanelli is CEO and cofounder of GSMI. Byron oversees the MVP Media Network and directs the global performance management initiatives for GSMI. Byron brings to the position a wealth of experience in performance management, finance, and business intelligence.
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