Taking Advice from an Outsider – A Book Review

I love talking to people that do not do what we do about what we do…. Ain’t that some voodoo.

When you talk to smart people that do not plan meetings or events about planning meetings and events you can sometimes get the best advice.

Take this for example:

Who would speak such blasphemy. Who would dare think that “A night of a thousand stars” or “A celebration of champions” is not the first thing on an attendee’s mind. Who would dare utter this nonsense that our attendees will not forever go forth proudly wearing the logo infused fanny pack proudly proclaiming that they had “fun in the sun”. Who would think that our attendee’s do not begin their sentences with “while I was at the age of enlightenment conference”.

Mark Jeffries is the Person and he is right and he is actually a SPEAKER.

I can hear it now, “My god, not a speaker, not THOSE PEOPLE. What does a speaker know about events except how to kill a budget, eat our food, and be late”.

Well, Mark knows a lot and is in a pretty good position because he sees us in action. He has witnessed our successes and failures from a unique perspective. From behind the scenes as well as from the frontlines. You get a good view from the stage, and this is a view that few meeting and event planners ever get to see.

Oh, he is also a moderator, author and has been on the Today show a bunch of times. Yes, the man knows Matt Lauer.

Mark has taken this experience and put it to good use. I just finished the new eBook by Mark titled “Creating the Perfect Event” and nowhere does he speak about creating themes, finding the perfect location or hiring the caterer that can put that special flower icing on top of the delicate little desert thing that tastes like crap.

What he does write about is how to create a winning program which will kill your attendees with content. This is what they WILL remember for all of eternity and what they WILL speak about when they are talking to colleagues and friends.

Mark’s take on creating the perfect event comes from his years as a speaker and moderator, not from the agonizing hours living in the trenches of planning hell. This is why it is so perfect. He is reminding us of why meetings and events are so important in the first place, the attendees. The attendees sometimes get forgotten when we are dealing with hotel contracts, budgets and the size of the ballroom.

When I first looked at the event planning checklist Mark has created, I chuckled. Nowhere on the checklist are linen color, transportation information or BEOs. What is on his event planning checklist are items like “Will the attendees grow”, “Will attendees needs be fulfilled”, and “Will they leave more excited than when they arrived”. These are the true hallmarks of success, not whether people loved the decor, the location, and the buffet.

Mark gives us real world actionable strategies for achieving perfection from an attendee’s eye view. He teaches us how to get buy in from the executive team and staff, how to think like a TV producer to keep attendees on their toes, how to format the content and why you really need to do something different with your speakers like getting an outside MC and choosing the right keynote.

In Mark’s world, rehersals, timings, and on-stage story telling are some of the most important elements to success. Mark even hits on the breaks and the food and how they are not standalone devices, they are a way to enhance the attendee experience and bring them full circle back to where they are at in the moment.

The one item that I am already using is the “David Letterman” style of presentations. At our next event, the CEO is going to speak for 10 minutes and then sit down with the moderator for a more informal discussion rather than droning on and on by herself for 30 minutes. We have taken the “my butt is asleep and tingles” moment and are turning it into a lively discussion about the state of a company and industry.

B-A-M, how is that for reading and putting into action.

After reading the book and looking at many of the events that I am involved in, I was able to take-away things that I will do differently from this point forward, in essence, I will be changing some ways that I approach meetings and events. I am also going to recommend that my clients read this and have already sent it to three of them (the three in most need of a reboot).

This approach to creating the perfect event begins and ends with the attendee. What they see, what they feel and how they will react to the content of the program. Food, venue and themes are all ancillary to the event which is something that I have been saying for years. Perhaps we just need to hear it from someone that is not “one of us”.

If educators gave copies of this book and Adrian Segar’s “Conferences that Work” to all of their students, the world of meetings and conferences would be a much better place. We could leave the old fashioned powerpoint driven snooze fest in the dust and get one with having happy attendees.

The eBook is Free – Go Get it Today


Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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