The Show Without a Speaker

It may seem revolutionary, but imagine an event without any big name speakers, no keynote, or any session led by a single speaker. What would attendees do? How would they learn? Likely, there would be a lot of collaboration among the attendees, as well as ad hoc discussions and demonstrations. While it's not realistic to cut out speakers completely, there is something to be said for limiting their place in the agenda, and we may be more ready for it than you'd think.[Tweet "The show without a speaker... What would attendees do? #GovEventsBlog"]

Today when we make a purchase online - anything from a car to a new pair of shoes to a new shampoo -  many of us scroll first to the comments and ratings of previous buyers. Peer review has become a powerful part of the decision making process. Incorporating this type of "experience sharing" into events is a great way to extend how we are making many decisions in life.

Here are a few ideas on how you can facilitate this concept at your next event:[Tweet "Attendees may get more and retain more if they are part of creating the event. #GovEventsBlog"]

  • Incorporate workshops and group discussions into event schedules. Offer attendees the ability to attend small sessions (10-20 people) where a topic related to their work is being discussed. Attendees could be experts in that area, or really struggling and looking for guidance. A trained moderator can help facilitate the discussion, encouraging a dynamic flow of information between group members with experts sharing their stories and those there to learn getting the information they need.
  • Create a TED Talk style event by inviting attendees on stage for quick presentations on topics germane to the event. Moderators from the previously mentioned workshops could recruit the most compelling speakers from their sessions to share their stories with the larger group.[Tweet "Recruit speakers from the smaller sessions to share their stories with the larger group. #GovEventsBlog"]
  • Use video as a conversation starter. Move beyond the quick inspirational videos used to pump up the audience and create a meaningful documentary-style piece (building on the success of ESPN 30 for 30 or HBO). You could even look to use existing videos found on YouTube or from TED Talks. Just be sure to gain permission and credit the creator. The video can serve as a jumping off point for large or small group discussions.
  • In the spirit of a hackathon, have attendees work on a project together. Find a non-profit or government agency in need of a solution and organize attendees in small groups to create a technology or solve the problem. After the group work is completed, bring everyone together to discuss the results and lessons learned.

While it may be easier to pick speakers and let them drive your vision of the content, attendees may get more out of your event and retain more information if they are part of creating it. This attendee-driven model requires special planning and ad hoc coordination to ensure the content remains meaningful, the conversations productive, and the event remains logistically on track.

Where have you seen the "no speaker" concept work? What made it effective? Let us know in the comments. If you want to experience less speakers and more action, check out the workshops listed on GovEvents.

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