Here’s an idea that I’ve been kicking around in my head for months and wanted to share in hopes someone builds upon it and implements.
Conferences are great opportunities to network with others in your industry and learn about the latest trends, strategies, challenges, and players. Yet most conferences agendas are dominated by Power Point presentations with a few minutes at the end for questions. Expo floors have booths filled with sales and marketing pitches, but most stroll looking for cool SWAG. The real benefits are the discussions in the hallways or at a social hour where people can really engage each other yet those are limited in time and supporting resources.
Enter the Innovation Booth
Take a standard conference booth, add a big white board on one side, a projector and screen in the middle, and a flip chart (large blank sheets of paper) on the other side. For five minutes someone shares a rough idea, a problem they’ve been struggling with, an issue plaguing the community, or a challenge for people to solve. For the next 10 minutes those gathered around the booth would share their ideas, ask questions, draw on the boards, and otherwise roll up their sleeves and engage on the topic.
Imagine a few of these booths on the Expo floor and time is set aside in the agenda to visit the booths. The innovation booths would be blocked off in 15 minute sessions (three an hour) with a schedule posted. These are not for sales pitches but rather a venue to engage others in tackling problems and co-developing solutions. A diverse crowd of conference attendees could offer innovative solutions and new business opportunities. This gets people out of their hotel ballroom seats trying to stay awake during the presentations and actively engaging and collaborating others on new ideas for their industry.
Conference organizers could schedule the first round of booth sessions with a published schedule to get it started. Later rounds could be filled by attendees signing up on a big board. If there’s competition for space in the booths, some voting system could be established on a board so those with the most interest get the time slots. Throughout the conference the booths would be open so if a few people get into a good discussion, they could use the white boards to further flesh out their ideas. Imagine the ideas developed and evolved on these boards. Essentially a larger version of writing on the back of a napkin.