Is the pen really mightier than the sword?

The pen is mightier than the sword. Really? Because the last time I watched Game of Thrones, Jon Snow wasn’t standing on The Wall shouting for his Parker rollerball. 

Nor do I remember Wellington sharpening his quill rather than his sword before entering the fray at Waterloo. And if King Arthur had carried a fountain pen instead of Excalibur, his court would have been more Rotary Club than Round Table. 

So, you get the point. When it comes to the business end of a battle, few have turned to their pencil case before their armoury. 

That said, the pen’s power doesn’t lie in its ability to injure and harm, although many have used it for that purpose. Instead, it lies in its ability to further our ability to communicate.

The written word is the most omnipresent, enduring and powerful means of communication that humans have developed. Whether scratching charcoal onto cave walls or typing emails on a touchscreen, the written word is at the heart of how humans have communicated with each other for thousands of years. 

All our learning and laws are set down in writing. From the ‘back in five’ message left on the corner shop door to the encyclopaedias that line the shelves in the British Library, we trust the written word to convey our meaning, record our evolution and share our knowledge. 

And the more we understand each other, the easier it is for disparate communities to find common ground and collaborate for mutual benefit. In the commercial arena, better understanding enables companies to work together and improve the way they deliver the products and services that we all need. 

Improved communication and integration lets us see there is more that binds us than separates us. Ultimately it will enable us to break down barriers rather than hide behind them in ignorance. 

But imagine we didn’t write things down or share our learning in this way. We would never, like Einstein, be able to stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us. We would struggle to develop and evolve the commercial and societal solutions that make our lives better.  

Capturing our ideas and sharing them is one of the most powerful things we can do as a race and it is, perhaps, the most important reason that humans have been able to develop sophisticated societies so quickly and successfully. 

Not to capture our ideas is to miss out on the opportunity of contributing to that shared evolution and working towards a more harmonious future for everyone.

Perhaps, therefore, the point about the pen being mightier than the sword lies in its ability to avoid conflict rather than to play a part in any conflict. By effectively sharing and collaborating we can find solutions to our problems rather than fighting over our differences. 

The questions, therefore, is how well do you share your learning and seek to explore what others have to share?

Pizza, chips and skiing...

I just got home after a skiing holiday and for the last week I’ve been listening to instructors shouting ‘pizza’ or ‘chips’ at their young students. They weren’t asking for lunch orders. They were teaching them to ski. 

It sounds strange, I know, but on the command ‘pizza’, everyone in the s-line behind the instructor would go into a snowplough. The v-shaped snowplough looks like a wedge of pizza and hence the link. 

Once it was time to straighten their skis and let them run, the instructor would shout ‘chips’ and everyone would bring their skis parallel to one another, like a couple of French fries sitting side-by-side on a plate.  

It takes seconds for the instructors to explain what they mean by ‘pizza’ and ‘chips’. Pupils from different countries, who don’t speak the same language, all understand immediately and can picture very clearly what they’ve got to do. 

Skiing is a pretty complicated sport and it’s not easy to master or teach. But the instructors have found a way of communicating the most important nuggets of information in a way that is very graphic, incredibly simple and universally understood. 

And it got me thinking. How often do companies, when hosting conferences, make sure they capture, in simple terms, the most important insights from their expert speakers? 

Yes, delegates are free to take their own notes, but wouldn’t professionally written summaries encapsulate the most important takeaways in a more concise and accessible way? 

At events with multiple speakers and presentations, it’s easy for the key themes and the most important points to get lost. But if that happens, then delegates don’t get the best value out of the event. In fact, no-one does. 

As a conference host, commissioning professionally written summaries of each session will make sure the valuable learning and actionable insights don’t get diluted. 

Creating concise post conference content lets hosts re-connect with their delegates after the event has finished. It gives delegates greater value from the event and provides actionable takeaways to use in their own companies. It also creates original content that hosts can use for their own social media and marketing purposes. 

The more companies can take a ‘pizza’ and ‘chips’ approach to post conference content, the more value they’ll generate both for themselves and their delegates.

A bag full of hooks won’t tell your story...

January is done and dusted and 2018 is well under way. Business events, networking sessions and conferences are all beginning to appear on the calendar. 

If you’re organising an event, how much focus do you put on getting bums on seats? Is there so much pressure to get the front-end right that you struggle to ensure the follow up marketing strategy is implemented effectively? 

Does your conference message get heard for days and weeks after the event has finished and do delegates take learning back to their companies and share it with colleagues? 

Many business events and conferences I’ve been to have provided incredible industry insights and helped me to unpick knotty technical issues. But once the event is over and you’re back at your desk, it’s not always easy to remember the headline points or regain the same understanding of complex subjects as you enjoyed on the day. 

Capturing what’s said in session round-ups will make sure ideas and insights don’t float out of the conference hall and disappear. Once you’ve captured all the ideas and key points, you can share them with delegates (and others), adding value to their experience. 

As you think about what sort of post-conference content would work best for your audience, here’s a few things that you might want to avoid.  

  • Don’t overwhelm people with PowerPoint. If you send out a pack of slides, it’s unlikely people will read them, let alone understand them in isolation. PowerPoint slides are the hooks that presenters hang their content on. Why send out a bag of hooks when it’s the content and delivery that carries all the value?  
  • Don’t assume delegates will take complete notes. It’s difficult to write down all the important points while staying focused on the presentation, and crucial information invariably gets missed. This is especially true once you’re into the third or fourth session. 
  • Don’t rely on news coverage. Journalists will focus on the most important points for their audience. They won’t offer the sort of individual session breakdowns that are most valuable and useful to delegates. 
  • Don’t forget that some of the most telling insights come from the floor. These often get missed unless you’re looking out for them and can capture them immediately.  
  • Don’t lose touch with delegates after the event. You’ve worked hard to bring everyone together and provide speakers offering business critical information, expert advice and market-leading experience. Capture this knowledge and turn it into valuable content for your delegates and potential prospects.