stepfordA few weeks ago on #ExpoChat, a weekly industry twitter chat, we had a discussion about transformational events. The topic came from something Stephanie Selesnick (@stephselesnick) heard at an event. Apparently David Adler, of BizBash said, “Everyone is bored with Experiential and now events have to be Transformational.”

Immediately I think, “oh great, another buzzword.” Along with, “what does that even mean?”

That’s one of the first things the #ExpoChat participants tried to do. They decided to try to define what a transformational event is. What elements would an event need to be transformational?

Some of the answers people had were along the lines of

  • An event that changes your point of view
  • An event that changes your perspective
  • An event that causes someone to change his/her life or job
  • Any event that changes your behavior
  • And more

The point is, each person has their own ideas of what would be a transformational event for him or her. And that makes sense to me, because we are all individuals with different backgrounds, different experiences, different personalities and different hopes and dreams.

I get concerned when our industry jumps on the TED pseudo science bandwagon. Someone hears a Ted talk or reads a book or research paper, and without researching much deeper into it decides it’s an absolute truth.

They start blogging about how that concept relates to the events industry and soon are presenting at every industry event.

I’ve seen this happen recently with the ideas of adult learning and unconferences. Somewhere along the way we’ve taken a perfectly sound theory on a particular learning style and decided that style was appropriate for everyone.

The same for unconferences. A few people got the taste for it by going to an EventCamp or some other unconference, and they decided that was the only way attendees wanted their conferences run. Pre-determined agendas were suddenly pre-historic and what was wrong with conferences everywhere.

And it is in part true. Some people like a more participatory style of learning. And some people like a conference where they get to decide what they want to talk about.

But not everyone does.

My issue with this bandwagon jumping, is that no one doing the jumping has spent enough time studying the science. They are not educating themselves on the entire picture.

Just like what makes an event transformational is different to many individuals, so is the way we like to learn, the way we like to meet, what we want for breakfast, how we define a networking event and how we want to spend our downtime.

Over the next four weeks, I’ll be looking at a few different trends in our industry and try to make sense of them. Are these trends based on solid science? Or are they based on only a piece of the information pie?

The first one we will tackle is adult education. Are lectures as evil as everyone makes them out to be? Are hands on workshops the only effective session model? Or does the format depend on what’s being presented and even who is in the audience?

For now, try to spend the next week looking at the ideas you hold to be absolute truths? Consider for a moment, is it just your absolute truth? Might the person next to you have a different absolute truth?