I have been thinking a lot lately about events…why we do them, what do we get out of them, and what is the magic when they work.  The “magic” I refer to are the truly memorable events that transcend as a visceral and deeply personal experience for the audience members who are giving their time and commitment by showing up. 

As a person who lives in a world of ideas and story creation, I started asking myself, “Is there a pattern or a formula that creates this?”  This is what I like to do in life -- isolate patterns. In fact, I will spend months asking myself, is there a pattern or formula to something as simple as the perfect cup of coffee, or is the perfect cup of coffee relative or subjective to the person that is drinking it? As you can tell, I am a really exciting guy.

However, despite my thrilling pursuits, I came to the conclusion that just like any and all events, there is an actual simple algorithm for a perfect “Cup of Joe”. What I have found is that an imperfect cup of coffee, like a meeting or conference, tends to stray and become average for similar reasons.

To explain, first we need to agree on why we hold events. Like a great cup of coffee, an event is meant to stimulate and enliven us. Obviously, an event does even more. A great event not only enlivens us and sustains us (while also bringing us together), it gets our hearts and minds to march in the same direction.

The formula for a great, heart-rendering event is as follows and can be as simple as mousetrap:

  1. Singularity of focus
  2.  A keynote speaker that powerfully communicates and amplifies that focus

These two single things can create a takeaway with a feeling so powerful that what people “get”, in terms of learning from the event, stays with them long after they get home.  Combined they generate the residue of the feeling you imbue in your audience.

The feeling that each attendee leaves with comes first. This “feeling” -- or lack thereof -- goes wrong most often because the focus of the event is not singular, or is too busy. In a world overwrought with content, and scarcity of attention being the defining business challenge of our time, events need to stop being everything to everyone, and instead be the one thing that truly matters to them.

Your speakers are the key to this. Attendees spend the majority of their time at your conferences in front of your speakers. Yet we under-estimate the importance of bold speakers with bold, simple, singular, uncomplicated ideas and images.  We compound this by not tying together these bold, singular themes throughout all sessions, from the general session keynotes and emcees to each and every concurrent breakout session and pre-conference workshop. 

Great events create a singular, forceful feeling. You want your audience leaving with a bold concept or idea that anchors them…Something that is so memorable that their favorable feelings for your past events drives them to attend future conferences.

The secret to the perfect cup of coffee stays with me.

- Jamie Mustard

Jamie Mustard: Author, The ICONIST: The Art and Science of Standing Out

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