By Chris Parnham.
Essentially, there are two types of parent.
One will coach and praise their children in order to build their confidence, and they inspire or challenge them to try harder and achieve great things. They focus on success and outcomes.
These children grow up to be winners, leaders, and happy, capable self-sufficient adults.
The other type, often called helicopter parents, constantly hover over their children, giving detailed orders and instructions for the simplest of tasks.
They correct every mistake, and they never give their children a chance to experiment or fail. They focus on the detail of doing something, rather than the result or purpose.
These children grow up without the ability to make tough decisions, or handle any kind of pressure. They’re usually dreaming of a happier life, which they will likely never find – you don’t find a happier life, you make one.
Now imagine an event manager as the parent, and the conference delegate as the child…
Most event managers behave like a helicopter parents; even when managing a conference attended by senior managers, business leaders, or law partners. These people can, on a normal day, not only get to their office all by themselves, but they can manage to find the closest train station without the help of a ‘personalised travel guidance pack’. Or, if they drive, they cleverly ask their sat-nav for help.
They can pack what they need for the day, without a list of ‘things you will need’, they can find their way to a meeting without the help of human signage and branded arrows.
At the end of the day, when all their meetings are over, they are not thrown into a tailspin if they can’t spend the night in the same building as their meetings, they seem to be totally at ease walking down the road to the closest hotel.
So, why is it, event managers assume delegates are like clueless 5-year-olds, who have to be molly-coddled through their day, signposted round ever turn, and eased into any change of environment? They are grown ups!
They can run companies, they can hire and fire people and they can win business. They can even do really complicated things like take planes by themselves, track down a place to buy coffee and hail a cab.
Event managers unite – stop being helicopter parents !
It’s time for us to make our delegates grow up.
The next time you are planning an event, try to use some of these terrifying phrases…
“I’m sure they will find their own way to the Hilton, even from the airport;”
“I think the hotel signage is fine as it is;”
“Let’s let the delegate choose which hotel they want to stay in, and then they can make their own way there and back each day;”
“If they want a coffee, they can order one;”
“If it gets too crowded here, they will just move to the other end of the room;”
“If a queue builds up, they’ll just have to wait in line;”
“If they have so many dietary requirements that all they can eat is sun-dried, organic kiwi fruit with the peel cut off, they will surely bring their own…”
“Shall we just let them sit with their friends?”
“If they forget their badge, they’ll just have to ask for a new one;”
“If the front row doesn’t fill up first, it surely will when there are no other seats left !”
“If they don’t visit all the exhibition booths, it’s because THEY DON’T WANT TO!”
“If there’s a pillar in the room, people will surely just not sit behind it!”
“If they don’t want to dance, THEY WON’T DANCE!”
Let’s inspire our delegates to do great things, just like we would our own children. Don’t condemn them to a life of unfulfilled dreams…