At the World Conservation Congress this week, there were 7,900 registered participants from 178 countries, and 972 events – from knowledge cafes to skills building workshops to conservation cinema. In this veritable souk of activity, how could you and your event avoid getting lost? People had a lot of great ideas about how to get attention and be memorable.
An innovation at this Congress was the creation of 12 thematic “Journeys“, which helped to organize some of the hundreds of offerings. These provided direction to the Congress traveller who might choose to follow the Islands Journey (In the Mood for an Island Get-Away?) or Marine Journey (Protecting Planet Ocean), or that of Protected Areas (Protected Areas for Life’s Sake!), Energy (The Nature of Energy) or Markets and Business among others. By following a Journey people had signposts to events that dealt with key issues and related social networking gatherings that put them in the pathway of other people interested in the same issue. All information on each Journey was collected into a short Journey guidebook, which in itself provided a useful synthetic resource of key words, related issues, institutions and experts working in each Journey field.
Even within the Journeys there were many overlapping events, from which people chose their favorites based on titles and short abstracts. How provocatively people worded their titles and abstracts and for some the promise for audience engagement helped people pick where they spent their precious time. The “Beyond Jargon” workshop title and short description promised and delivered the many innovative ways conservationists are getting their messages across through ideas and campaigns as unusual as a crocheting a coral reef , through developing a horticultural moss growing programme in prisons to prevent moss gathering in forests. A Learning Opportunity workshop with the provocative title of 3D Virtual Worlds: The possibilities of promoting global environmental awareness was held at which the Save Our Seas Foundation took participants to their Second Life Island and talked about how they use Second Life to educate youth about marine issues, as well as how YouTube has impacted their communication media choices and design, as exemplified in this powerful 1 minute Rethink the Shark Campaign video.
And every event had many speakers (it seemed). Who won the competition for attention and space in people’s long term memories? In the thousands of presentations that were made, many speakers used combined techniques to capture and keep people’s attention. By far the most effective combined great imagery with storytelling. The ones that touched us most were personal accounts and provided places to go for more resources and ways to follow up. For example, a speaker from Virunga National Park in the DR Congo set up the Gorilla.cd blog for the park rangers to share stories of their often perilous work to protect mountain gorillas, and invite other bloggers to be campaigners for their in-park team. Other speakers used video imagery embedded within their presentations to get a diversity of voices into their presentation, to take the audience out of the room to other parts of the world; they used music as a audio sub-titles to their presentations to make the participants’ experience fuller, or included other language translations of their text. Presentations that had images, stories, new ideas, and ways to act were by far the most memorable. Speakers who challenged the audience, asked them questions and pitched it above introductory level added to the appeal.
With such choice, we needed some help to see the trees for the forest – thanks to those who helped make themselves and their messages most memorable.
(I have written about this before, see this January 2007 post, written as I sat in my first planning meeting for this Congress: “Bottoms on Seats: How do you make that memorable?”)