Clueless conferences, let's change them

In recent years I have had the privilege of attending several conferences on African real estate issues and I couldn't help but feel that a majority of the conferences did not make any positive impact on me as I never really learnt anything of value.

In many ways I felt they lacked any effectiveness in helping me leverage on the real estate opportunities that exist on the continent and did not provide any practical solutions to tackling my pressing issues.

Not to mention some of the so called real estate experts who presided over the events and gave boring and sometimes misleading lectures. And don't even get me started on the fees!! In some cases the conferences were organised by opportunist and focussed primarily on making money for the organisers.

It is a very frustrating situation, I don't feel we are taking full advantage of the crucial role conferences can play in the development and growth of our continent. Well designed conferences can make a huge impact towards educating and empowering the individuals (leaders) that will drive growth in our economies.

My frustration was echoed at a recent East Africa Capital Markets Conference where Rwandan President Kagame spoke out about the topics in question and the proceedings at the conference (see video clip)

Today Technology is changing our social climate rapidly, we are already having discussions, debates and exchanging ideas with like-minded people everyday. We can now access presentations, speeches and lectures by some of the most influential people in the world a lot easier than ever before.

So the question then remains ‘Why do many conference organisers still hang onto the obsolete model’?
Two things come to mind:

1. It’s a proven model of making money.
2. Delegates have been trained to expect that model.

If a conference organiser does not deliver that “big name” speaker then their model for making money is out of the window because no one will attend. And secondly delegates have been trained to expect the important people at the podium (“lecture hall” mind-set) while they play a passive role. I mean how often have you gone to a conference and thought “I’m just going to sit here and listen” instead of saying “I insist on participating”.

Delegates want to learn what is relevant to them, meet people and create new connections.

Generally we are always at a pretty high level of "buzz" So our conferences should go beyond and provide professional environments where delegates gain relevant knowledge through social learning.

Presentations are here to stay but we should change their format to more of a collaborative effort with the audience. This model carries a strong human element, which naturally encourages networking.

Organisers should not dedicate a lot of time to delivering that “big name” speaker and delegates need to have faith in the expertise of their peers and devote more time to creating networking opportunities that will make a practical difference.

Finally our mindset towards conferences needs to change, we have to demand participation and also have to understand that we sometimes still have to pay and do the work ourselves.

It’s our responsibility to lead, to participate, to engage.


Anthony Anakwue is the Founder of SAPIS™ the world's leading virtual expo focussing on promoting the real estate sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. His passion is to provide people of all professional backgrounds with the practical tools necessary to build their own economies towards growth

SAPIS is the world's only virtual expo with a focus to provide real estate professionals across Africa an opportunity to share knowledge, network without borders or boundaries and at the same time provide the practical tools necessary to build their own economies towards growth.

No comments