Monthly Archives

February 2019

4 ways to create delegate engagement using downtime at your next meeting or event.

By | Useful Conference Tips | No Comments

I don’t know about you but it seems to me that too often there simply isn’t time to think or ponder, or have those all-important candid conversations about things.

As human beings we need time and space to digest ideas and mull over discussions and simply let things sink in. It’s the downtime that allows us to effectively learn and more importantly process information.

Think about your own experiences and you’ll find it’s often during this free time that the best ideas present themselves or the penny drops about a topic or conversation we’ve just been part of.

So why is it then that in the world of meetings and events too often we are presented with agendas that are crammed so full that no one has time to breathe let alone think?

To effectively get people to engage with the content, take on board what is being discussed and more importantly act on it, downtime is paramount.

When designing a conference program or a meeting schedule we need to consider the downtime and free space as being just as important as the busy bits. If not more so. Especially when it comes to engaging your conference audience.

So here are four ways to design effective downtime.

Make sure you have time buffers between sessions.

Having a presentation finish at 10.30am and the next starting at 10.31am is ludicrous, (and yes it does happen). Not only do sessions run over but you need time for the audience to digest what has just been said, perhaps chat about it for a bit and then reset for what is coming next. Have at least 5 minutes between sessions

Allocate participation time

Just before everyone heads out to a break have a good portion of time for your facilitator or MC to get people revisiting the sessions they have just experienced. Get them to talk about what one thing really stood out for them or how they can apply the information to their own workplace.

Design time for serendipity

Let’s face it, some of the best moments, ideas and opportunities happen when you least expect them. It’s during those candid conversations that ideas are triggered, new relationships are built and clarity strikes. You can’t force serendipity but you can help it along by providing the right stimulus and the right environment. Which also means you need to allow plenty of free time for it to occur.

Delete and Space.

Finally and most importantly, look over your program and make sure there is at least 5-10 minutes of free time for every hour. Cut down the length of sessions if you have to. Be brave and delete 15 minutes either end of the day and then space the remaining sessions out. Your delegates will love you for it because they’ll have enough time to engage and connect with your content, your message and find ways to act on it.

A related article is ‘5 ways to destroy your meeting or event’ and ‘Could this be the best facilitation tool ever‘.


Find out how Nigel can help facilitate or MC  your next conference or event. 

3 Big Innovation Barriers.

By | Innovation | No Comments

Innovation is massively important because it is what helps a business grow, outpace their competition, change with the times and profit. But in pursuing our need and lust for innovation there lie a number of barriers, challenges and traps that actually hinder and stop innovation in its tracks.

1. The myth of BIG:

There is the myth out there that in order to be successful we need to be radically disruptive, we need to find the next big innovation, come up with the next Uber or reinvent the iPhone. And that simply isn’t true.  

We constantly hear and talk about stories of start-ups who began with a radical idea and who changed the world and made millions, if not billions in the process. But the reality is that the Ubers of this world are few and far between.

But who said that innovation had to be about big radical disruption?

Many businesses and their leaders, like I once did, believe that success and profitable growth relies on finding that one ‘Eureka’ idea. Truth is though business success isn’t about one single innovation but many small-scale innovations strung together. Business success comes by consistently finding innovative ways to improve everything you do. And those innovations don’t need to be big or radical, they simply need to work, be effective and make your business money.

I’m not saying if you do happen to invent the next Google or the next Uber not to go for it but what I am s saying is don’t let it be to the detriment of the business in front of you.

Many really successful businesses have never had a disruptive idea what they have done extraordinarily well is consistently find ways to do things better than their competitors and before the competitors. I have interviewed literally hundreds of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders and the one thing that stands out is their ability and their passion for constant improvement. When speaking it’s something I’ve seen audiences at innovation conferences always keen to discuss.

To overcome this barrier to innovation we need to change our view of innovation from being radical and large-scale to being achievable, effective and everyday.

2. Complexity:

Most people see innovation as too costly, too risky, too time-consuming and way too complex. Which is another challenge worth overcoming.

In companies all over the planet are innovation champions with a myriad of innovation degrees and various models and systems that measure, test, analyse, re-measure and re-test. All valid and effective.

Thing is, ask your people to be innovative and they’ll run because there is someone up on level three who does that, and they are way too busy to get involved anyway. They see innovation as a challenge

But give your people a simple achievable process and back it up with a culture to support them and they will perform miracles.

Simply ask them to find a problem or a gap, come up with a solution, act on it and gauge whether it works or not and you’ll have an endless supply of innovative solutions.

Who said innovation has to be complicated?

3: Micromanagement:

Here’s the deal. If you want innovation as part of your business on an everyday basis then you need to give your people permission to not just find effective solutions but let them act of those solutions and stuff those solutions up as well.

If you want to suppress the desire of your team to be constantly finding ways of doing things better then all you need to do is look over their shoulders and tell them how to do everything. Micromanagement is a massive barrier to innovation thriving in your business.

It’s one thing to give a directive of everyday, small-scale innovation to your people but it’s another thing entirely to let them take the initiative and the responsibility

Build an innovation culture that give them permission to not just have ideas but also put them in place. Let them know it’s okay to try something and get it wrong as long as they learn from mistakes.

When speaking with audiences I see all the time the lights come on and the heads nod when these three big myths are debunked.

Business success isn’t a result of finding and successfully implementing a single ‘Eureka’ idea. It’s the culmination of many scale-scale innovations and of consistently finding innovative ways to improve everything you do. Business success is a ‘Game of Inches’.

A related article to this is ‘How do I foster an innovation culture in my team?

How do I foster an innovation culture in my team?

By | Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

Building an innovation culture is a ‘Game of Inches’ and not a one-off event or a single “eureka”’ idea.

Success comes from incrementally moving forward and finding innovative ways to consistently improve your business. So how do you help your people be innovative every day?

As an innovation speaker, one of the challenges with this is that innovation is seen too often as large-scale radical disruption. There’s a stance out there for many businesses that to become more profitable and move to the next level they need to find the next big thing. As a result, most of your team see innovation as a scary and inaccessible proposition because it is too complex, too risky and too hard.

Let’s face it: most people in your organisation are simply trying to keep up with their own workload and their own processes on a day-to-day basis, so they don’t have the time or inclination to focus on innovative solutions for the entire business. But what if you shift that?

What if you change the view of innovation and its role?

What if rather than seeing it as disruptive you see it as an achievable everyday process and encourage your people to find ways of improving their part of the business, no matter how big or how small the improvement may be? Imagine the difference that would make throughout your organisation because great ideas and solutions are ones that are workable, profitable and make a difference to your business in a positive way.

To do that requires not just a shift in mindset from large-scale innovation to small-scale innovation.

Give your team permission to be innovative each and every day.

It also requires you to give your team permission to seek ideas that improve their world and more importantly act on those ideas. If they don’t feel they have your permission to do so then chances are they won’t .

You also need to be brave enough to give them permission to make mistakes. The good news is if you fail on a small-scale improvement it’s not going to break you. As Mark Evans, owner of Paronella Park in Queensland once told me: “You don’t learn anything if you don’t fail. ”

So always ask: “What did you learn and what can be done differently next time?”

Your team needs to measure the difference their innovative ideas are making.

Finally, great innovative ideas need to make a difference to your business in a positive way so you need to know how effective any improvements are. That doesn’t need to be complex because it could be as simple as measuring time saved, improved conversion rates or cost savings.

Here’s a case-study we did a while back on how a small change (16 footsteps in fact) added $30k difference to the bottom line of a restaurant.

It’s a shift from big to small – when researching innovation cultures I see it all the time

Remember business success is a game of inches. Ask your people to invent the next Google or come up with the next Uber and they will freeze with panic and fear. (The myth of big is one of the challenges to innovation in most organisations). But fostering a culture of achievable small-scale innovation and they will achieve greatness.

Related articles include ‘What Phrenology can teach us about creative thinking‘ and ‘How 16 Footsteps Added $30k To Bottom Line Profit’ and also Strong leaders don’t run, they walk fast in times of crisis

Find out more about how Nigel can help your leaders and teams through his executive coaching, and other keynotes

Conference Facilitator and Conference MC

How to get the most from your conference facilitator and MC.

By | Useful Conference Tips | No Comments

I was recently driving with my son through Sydney when the car in front of us switched lanes without any warning right in front of another vehicle. Behind was another car who then needed to slap on their brakes to give everyone room. I calmly explained to my son ‘that’s why you need the 3 second rule’. You know, the one that says no matter the speed you’re doing make sure there is always a 3seconds between you and the car in front. Sadly there are a few drivers out there who don’t know about the 3 second rule. (Good thing I’m perfect!)

If we have buffer zones when driving then why don’t we have buffer zones in event run sheets? To get the most from your conference facilitator or MC you need to ensure there is enough room – timewise.

So often in event programs there is no room for error when it comes to time, if one keynote speaker goes overtime, or your delegates are late from a break, it creates a cascading effect catch-up and havoc. It throws the next few speakers out, shortens Q&A, annoys your sponsors when you cut 10 minutes from lunch and they have less selling time, and your conference facilitator becomes a glorified timekeeper. So I’m jumping on my soapbox and making a plea! Please add, at least, a 5-minute buffer between presentations. ‘Hang on Nige’ I hear you say, ‘if I have 8 speakers during the day that’s 40 minutes of downtime!’ Yes, that’s right, although I’d say it is 40 minutes of productive time. And there are three very good reasons for that.

Here are three reasons why your conference facilitator will love you:

You’ll get the most out of your conference facilitator.

You’re paying good money for your conference facilitator (at least I hope you are) so you want to give them the time needed to edify your speakers, create links, add relevant anecdotes, energise people, and get participants thinking and talking about what they just heard. A good facilitator is a theme weaver, and it’s their job to support and enhance your program, and they can only do that if you give them enough time to do so, otherwise you’ve paid someone who only has time to thank the previous speaker and introduce the next one.

You’ll get the most out of your keynote speakers.

No matter how well you plan someone is going to go over time and the last thing you want is other speakers stressing out. Many internal speakers are thrown (and sadly many professional ones too) if you ask them to trim their time. I’ve coached loads of executive presenters over the years and the one thing I wish I didn’t have to teach them is how to build their presentations so they can cut 5 or 10 minutes off if they need to, without affecting their message or delivery.

Your delegates will learn more, retain and apply more.

Building buffers also helps your conference participants get more from the sessions. Humans need time to digest things, especially when it’s new. Having buffers gives them that chance because it allows them to think about and talk about key points and how to apply them. And it allows them to empty their brains and reset for the next presentation. Neuro-science tells us that the pre-frontal cortex (the thinking part of your brain) drains itself of energy fast and needs to recharge every 20 -30 minutes. (This is one of the reasons for the trend of shorter presentations – but that’s another topic)

It takes the stress out of things for everyone.

I know I said three but this one kind of sums it all up. Nothing more to be said really.

Just as keeping 3-seconds distance between you and the car in front might seem excessive, having a 5-minute buffer between speakers may seem unnecessary, but it will make sure you arrive safely at your conference destination. It will also make sure your participants get the most from the journey and that you get the most from your conference facilitator,
your speakers, and your sponsors.

By the way, this article first appeared in micenet magazine in December 2017. Nigel Collin was the author.
Also read ‘
4 ways to create delegate engagement using downtime at your next meeting or event and 5 ways to destroy your meeting or business event.