Conference organizers are in many ways like movie directors. They have to manage many people, diverse personalities, locations and deadlines. They have to articulate a vision, and see that vision through to the end. They make adjustments along the way, and react to changing circumstances. They are intently focused on the project at hand, which has a beginning, middle and end.
A great director is the best boss ever on a set. Conference software is to the organizer what a technical crew is to a director – a tool to help carry out a mission.
But what about the next movie? The same director may or may not be involved. The producer will decide because the producer has a broader view of the movie business, as the person who takes an idea and brings it to life. The producer asks the hard questions, like: Will the film be successful enough financially and artistically to pursue another? Which elements worked well? How can future productions benefit from the lessons of past productions?
The producer gathers financing, secures script and story rights, distribution and key players, such as writers and directors. The producer establishes the overall conditions for movie-making to take place. The producer understands the life-cycle of the spectacle. The producer invests in industry partners who help manage the cycle.
Effective conference organizers think more like movie producers than like directors. They partner with enterprises that understand the life-cycle of their conference, and set goals for short-, medium- and long-term success. That means looking beyond abstract submission software and instead looking for companies that offer solutions for managing all the information exchanged at the organization’s past, present and future conferences.
How can you, your conference organizer or your team think more like a movie producer? As a start:
Define your content broadly
Submitting abstracts is only one scene in the greater production. Conferences gather and review abstracts, but also have a wealth of other content to share: manuscripts, entire papers, posters, session recordings, videos, summaries, agendas and past proceedings, to name a few. A producer sees content as both current and future assets, and manages them accordingly.
Plan for the next production
No doubt you’re honing your process for this year’s conference, so all will go as smoothly as possible. If you’re thinking like a director, you’re thinking stops there. If you’re thinking like a producer, you’re thinking about how your process can evolve so next year’s conference, and the conference you’ll hold in five years, will leverage the experiences of the current production.
It’s no coincidence that the shows winning Academy Awards for best movie often claim best director and best producer prizes as well. A successful production needs the tactics of a director and the strategic thinking of a producer.
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