The Silent Conference

I had the chance to be one of the speakers who was chosen to participate in the Silent Conference – organised by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) – #MPIContent

What is a Silent Conference?

A silent conference can be compared with the silent disco (where every partipant is listening to a different channel with different music) only this time, the audience can switch between 4 different speakers. Every participant has headset and they can choose to which speaker they want to listen. And if they don’t like the content or style of one of the speakers then they can switch to another presentation.

My experience

It was a great experience but also very difficult to do. I’m a professional speaker so I’ve been on stage in front of thousands of people and have quite some speaking experience so I assumed it wouldn’t be that hard. But it’s incredibly difficult to concentrate on your content while 3 speakers are presenting at the same time. Certainly when the other speakers are starting to run around or do interactive exercises with a part of the audience- suddenly you see 20% of the audience putting their hand in the air or shout something and you have no clue what they are doing. The slides of your colleague-speakers are also appearing next to your slides so your attention is automatically drawn to the new things that appear.

The whole audience doesn’t ‘belong’ to you.

But the hardest thing (didn’t know that it was so important) is the connection with the audience. You don’t really have a clue who is listening to you so it’s very hard to connect with people. And I’ve noticed that I get a lot of energy from the audience & even adapt my examples based on the reactions of the audience. Eg normally I know when people will laugh or be touched by a certain element of my presentation but this time, 75% of the audience is not reacting to that element and it does something weird with your brain because you think that your message is not resonating with the participants. But it still resonates – only with a smaller part of the audience. For that reason, at one moment, I was quite sure that one person was following my presentation and I tried to focus on that person and I tweaked my examples based on the reactions of that person and that helped me to get fully present. And it’s quite funny to notice afterwards that apparently quite a large portion of the audience were ‘following’ my presentation. And very bizar (or probably not) that they found that my presentation got stronger since the moment that I was ‘connected’ to that one person

Compliments to MPI

I am very happy that MPI is taken the lead in experimenting with these new concepts. I hope that a lot of other event-professionals will follow this path and dare to do some different things at events & conferences.
The whole concept of the day was quite remarkable. Next to the silent conference part, it all started with the concept of putting content back into the center of an event. 75% of the revenues are divided over the speakers instead of ‘seeing’ the speakers just as an extra cost (like quite a lot of events are still doing). MPI understands that a lot of the added value during an event is created by good (professional) speakers.
For that reason, MPI organised a keynote challenge where 96 potential candidates where screened and 10 finalists where selected. Those 10 speakers got a chance to deliver a 5 minute pitch in front of 200 event-professionals. And I can assure you, preparing a 5′ pitch is a looooooooooot of work. I think that I’ve spend around 15 hours on my mini-presentation. During a normal keynote of 45-60 minutes, it’s not that crucial if you ‘elaborate’ one minute on a certain example or need to repeat an important element but if you only have 5 minutes, every word counts. I wasn’t the number one who could deliver the 45′ keynote session but happy to be one of the other 4 finalists to participate in the Silent Conference.
And also compliments to the very inspiring and cool location – Sugarcity in Amsterdam. Certainly recommended if you want to have an unconventional location.

And now it’s up to you

If you are an event-professional, I hope that this blogpost could trigger you to look at your own events and conferences and dare to do something different because we still have too many ‘boring’ events. I’ve created a slideshare where I break 21 assumptions in the event world. Just send me an email if you’re interested in receiving these slides.