by Trevor Connell
By all accounts this year’s MEA conference was a great success. The speakers ranged from good to great, the social events were a great hit and the venue staff went all out to impress.
This is not intended to be a definitive appraisal of the conference but rather a collection of observations from someone who has now attended 14 MIAA/MEA conferences.
The power in the point
Saying no to PowerPoint does not mean you can’t have imagery.
Like all computer programs Microsoft’s PowerPoint is just a tool, but it has also become synonymous with speaker support imagery – a brand name that had become a verb – just like people “hoover” the floor with an Electrolux, cook on a “primus” when camping or “photoshop” with PaintShop Pro any other photo editing tool.
Unfortunately Microsoft developers think that we all need lots of help in the form of templates whether we are writing a letter (or email these days), designing a brochure, preparing a budget, or preparing images to support a presentation. Unfortunately too many people have no imagination and just collude with Microsoft to produce boring imagery.
As an industry association MEA should be at the forefront in promoting best practice when it comes to conferences so this development is most welcome.
At the welcome session Ian Whitworth went into why the conference committee decided to raise the standard of speaker support imagery. Ian then showed examples of “bad PowerPoint” and examples of much better imagery.
Apart from Ian Whitworth there are two presenters at the conference who I have seen on a number of occasions who always use great speaker support imagery – Nigel Collin and Dan Gregory.
So did the message get through to the presenters? There were some who were confused and thought they were not allowed to use any imagery and then hurriedly put their presentation back together, and there were some who could not break the Microsoft shackles and still produced bullet point slides. But overall the imagery definitely looked better.
And by the way – all the house presentations and most of the speakers’ were in fact produced in PowerPoint. ”It is just a tool people!” (to quote Ian Whitworth)
I’ve read about apps for conferences and events and was keen to see one that was actually useful. In the past I have been impressed by the Sydney Festival app and unimpressed with the one put together for AIME this year.
But this one was in fact well thought out and very useful. For example – in the past I’ve always relied on a pocket guide for a conference timetable and the full guide for speaker bios and presentation overviews. So easy when it is all available on my phone.
Although the tablet version is just an enlarged version of the phone app it worked even better – especially if you wanted to take notes during a session. A tablet version could also incorporate links to websites relevant to a presentation and notes from the presenter. I can’t see any evidence of the afterlife of the app being utilized though - follow-up notes and discussions being the most obvious.
Nigel – the bright spark in the room
I have sat in on presentations by Nigel Collin on a number of occasions over the years and even though a lot of the material may be repeated I always get something out of it and this year all of that seemed to coalesce. I was mightily impressed with the culmination of the session where Nigel set a real world challenge that is relevant to our industry – “how do we sell the concept of business events to Australia – business, government and the public” there were some fantastic ideas that came out of that session and I look forward to MEA laying them on the table at the next BECA meeting.
Singing up a storm
Live music at a conference is always invigorating. The conference proper kicked off with Song Division working with input from the delegates to write and then perform a song for the conference. That soundtrack was then used in my highlights slideshow at the end of the conference (and that was in ProShow Gold, not PowerPoint). But what about Mr Percival? He had the audience so pumped as they left the conference that they were still on a high when it came to the awards dinner.
Make ‘em laugh
I was based in the speaker preparation room during the conference and for two days Darren Isenberg was alongside me preparing his presentation for the closing plenary. It was a real insight into just how much hard work comedy can be. Darren’s presentation looked effortless, but he put a lot of work into his script and into his slides (in PowerPoint). His delivery may be droll but his script well prepared.
It was a risk asking delegates to walk to the opening night party. The Star is too close to warrant busses but it was a good walk. However the delegates arrived at the venue in a good disposition and then went on to have a great time in a great venue with fantastic staff. Report on the Marquee party
Hit it Toby – and will you lot please shush
The host committee went all out for the Awards dinner – the design was fabulous and the dinner a great credit to Uwe Habermehl and the chefs at SCEC.
The tonight show format with the live band and the couch interviews with the sponsors worked extremely well and once again Toby Travener was the consummate host.
There are now so many award categories that some people I spoke to have suggested that some of the lesser awards should be presented during the conference. I don’t think the number of awards is an issue, I’ve worked on many awards dinners in other industries with a lot more awards and they still get through it all.
The big issue though was the constant chatter in the room. Let’s face it Mr Percival’s finale to the conference pumped everyone up, then the room and the live band kept everyone elevated. There were definitely some tables where the guests never shut up all night (I wonder how they actually consumed their food). Maybe a deal needs to be struck with the audience along the lines of “we will give you more breaks to chatter in if you will just shut up while the presentations are happening – and by the way, you will be here for an extra hour.”
Or maybe do an awards breakfast!
With the announcement the week before that the SCEC will close at the end of next year it seemed that the staff were going all out to impress in a last hurrah.
From the presentation of, and technical support in, the plenary and breakout rooms to the fabulous food throughout the conference SCEC was definitely impressive.
Over to you
Well that’s enough from me – what did you think. You are welcome to leave your comments below.