Reinventing Conferences for a New Millennium in Idaho Falls


Why do we call it “The Information Age” when we spend so little time thinking about how to better the sharing and caring of, yup, information? And what does this question have to do with Idaho? Keep reading. I’ve been going to various biz gatherings and conferences for a long time now and almost always walk away with a few basic thoughts for how to improve things.

• More pictures, fewer words … and this critique includes me. • More dialogue, less monologue — I’m pretty good at this one but could always improve. • Cut the damn thing in half — I’m not in control of this one. I’m the thing you hire, not the magic person who does the hiring and planning.

But this is why I was so excited when conference maker and deep thinker Roger Plothow heard what I had to say and said, "Let’s give these ideas a run."

Roger is a journalist, newspaper publisher, and an all-round great character. And he gave me a golden opportunity to test out this approach last week with a one-day conference he organized — bringing my colleague and frequent collaborator Spike Manton along for the ride to help me facilitate.

So before I offer up my Trump-like reviews (such as “Best Conference Ever!”), here are some non-alternative facts. (Otherwise known as "facts.")

Topic and sole focus of the event: Medicare. I’m not joking. People want to sign up for it, but have a few questions.

Audience: About a hundred 64-year-old men & women … and one Millennial. I guess he’s a planner, too.

Place: Idaho Falls. Lots of mountains, very pretty, weather unpredictable. On this day, it was windy. As in "break your umbrella in two" kind of windy.

And guess what? We had a gas! I am here to report that early reactions to our experiment were positive and here’s all we did:

1. Cut the Keynote on Medicare from 60 to 20 minutes. Our Keynote was nervous but handled the loss of slides and time with great aplomb. 2. Made sure people were in a good mood before the brain drain. 3. Broke up into groups, let ’em talk, and then came back together for Q&A’s.

We wrapped in under two hours … and then people stuck around and chatted for another hour.

Now, I know it’s Idaho, where entertainment choices might tend to be a bit scant — but even the Millennial hung around for this conversation.

Not to sound like a conference know-it-all, but I’ve experienced a lot of the first (and only) boilerplate conference format we all know and love. So it was kind of fun to try something different. It felt — well, can I say it? Built for this millennium.

HealthcareKathryn Lake