Topic generation is crucial for the success of an event and there are many elements to developing a good conference programme – primary research, secondary research, the angle of your topics…..
Everyone has their own generation methodology to develop speaking sessions, panel discussions and brainstorming workshops. During the research phase, key topics are usually generated through in-depth phone interviewing with key stakeholders and experts.
There are some basic rules that you should follow when conducting conference topic research:
- Always back up your desk research by picking up the phone to re-confirm whether you have the right issues / topics in place to be covered in your conference.
- If your event is held annually, it’s no point doing research too early as you will find topics becoming obsolete closer to your next event – 3 to 6 months beforehand should be enough to keep topics fresh and current.
- Pay attention to what is talked about at your actual events – one of the best ways to develop new topics is during an event i.e. talking or listening to the delegates – you will discover potential future topics that came from the event.
- Sometimes you have to be patient – it could be a year or more before new areas develop.
- Bear in mind that events can be cyclical – an event that may have died in terms of relevance or popularity can come back or morph into another event.
However basic rules aside, what is paramount is to pay attention to what is going on in the industries you specialise in – as whenever there is a new development in those industries, especially one that companies are dedicating time and money to – there is your new topic!
Pay attention to the timing of your research of your chosen topic too.
There are essentially three research phases for your chosen topic, like a graph with a parabola ascending and then descending:
- The topic is new and so possibly people will not pay to attend at this moment in time;
- It’s the perfect time to develop a conference or seminar on the topic;
- The theme begins to decline and possibly becomes opportune to training or dies.
The most burning issues and topics will be generated with the support of industry professionals. In this fast moving and challenging industry, as producers we get side tracked with generating as much revenue as we can and can lose sight of what is important – to focus on the quality and adding value to the professionals.
If you have any top tips for how you have undertaken effective market research strategies for generating new conference topics, please share them in the comments below.