The power of repetition

During my “conference producer” days I used to hate repetition. I would avoid it at all costs. Every programme would have one session covering one issue. I’d be looking to get through as many issues / problems / topics as possible and brave would be the person who wanted to hang around too much on any one topic. And worse, I’d want to hang the speaker who covered what had already been visited by another speaker!

This hatred of repetition was borne from my event feedback. “too much repetition” was something that would haunt the “other comments” section of my feedback forms. It appeared (quite understandably I considered) that delegates didn’t like hearing the same thing twice. There was no point eating up valuable time going over the same point, much better surely to cover new points in every session. Cover as much as possible. Feast not famine. I wonder dear reader are you nodding away in agreement or shaking your head in annoyance?

Repetition is good. Repetition is good. Understanding meeting design

After many years hiding from repetition I learned that actually the best conferences (those who have useful content that is remembered) use the tool of repetition. And they use it again and again.

It turns out that all points are not made equal and many points may be too many points. It is better for your speakers to emphasise and reemphasise the important ground breaking, shape shifting points across the day rather than try to fill your cup with loads of key points.

There was a reason that attendees complained about repetition and that was unfortunately what they thought was good for them actually wasn’t supporting their learning. This is pretty common and I’ve covered it before on the blog. Those who plan content have to be bold. Let me say it again, so that you can confidently place it in your programme: repetition is good.

Successful conferences find key points and ensure that they are repeated by most of the speakers. Now obviously this CAN BE BORING unless you have the right speakers; they are well briefed and you use some meeting design to deliver those messages in different formats. But the essence is that, you guessed it, repetition of key themes is important.

meeting design understanding the basics

Make repetition interesting

The best way to ensure that your repetition doesn’t become boring is to gently sprinkle it across your sessions. This is better than having one session on each key point (see boring avoidance points above).

So here’s a live example, something that you can replicate in your next conference. At our event tech conference Tech Fest we have three key points that we want attendees to remember when they leave. So here’s our mini brief for our speakers:

“The overarching theme of the content is the need to make the most of the technology that our attendees are using or thinking about using.

A great conference programme is built around a strong narrative and the use of consistent key themes. For Tech Fest 2015 we have identified three main themes that we would like every session to include:

• the use of technology has to be value led
• there will always be barriers and hurdles to overcome and here’s how we did / do it…….
• event planners need to squeeze as much out of the technology they use to help every stakeholder

Using these three key themes as a cornerstone of every session will ensure we have consistent messages throughout the programme and will allow every session to reinforce these key themes.”

Taking this approach is effectively saying to attendees and speakers we are really only going to cover three things at our event. Now of course if you say this directly it is unlikely that anyone would attend but this is the heart of the issue; this is really what every conference should do. So using the sprinkle approach will mean that you cover the key points and the key themes in an engaging and interesting way while ensuring our new friend repetition is always there.

So this is for all those who put programmes together as well as for all those delegates out there. Repetition is good. Repetition is good.

Published On: April 27th, 2015 / Categories: Behavioural Change, Conference Architect, Conferences & Congresses, Meeting Design /