This year, at the annual Broadway League Spring Road Conference, I’ve seen and heard some amazing talks, creative conversations, and thought-provoking panels. In fact, I would say it has been some of the best programming they’ve ever had at the conference – in particular, Celeste Headlee’s talk on reclaiming authentic human connection. Wow!
Well done to the folks at the Broadway League for putting it all together.
I am involved in producing a lot of conferences and events. I also make it a point to attend as many as I can. Informed by those experiences, I can say with complete confidence that this conference has a differentiating factor that adds a great layer of value over many others. That factor is named Colleen.
For those of you who aren’t in the theatre business and might not know the Colleen I speak of, she is someone who works in the wonderful world of Broadway on the road. We’ve been at many of the same conferences over the past decade and – while I don’t know her that well personally – I stand in awe of her consistent ability to impact the conferences she attends.
Colleen, as an attendee, embodies what an influential and valuable conference audience member is. She understands that engaged onlookers are catalysts of the most useful conference dialogue and goes above and beyond to do her part to advance the conversation inside and outside of the room.
I suggest we all take a page from Colleen’s book by trying one of the actions she (perhaps unknowingly) models at conferences:
- She smashes the ice. We all know that moment: “any questions from the audience?” You’ll notice that once the first hand goes up and the first question is asked, the thirst to ask a question becomes contagious. Until then, the room usually stares back at the people on stage like deer in headlights. Colleen is always the first to raise her hand to get the conversation started…and more hands instantly go up from there.
- She makes the panelists feel valued. She actively listens and asks the panelists meaningful questions. From my experience, engaging with panelists on thoughtful topics is the single best way to keep these experts involved throughout the day; and to prevent them from looking for the nearest exit when they’re done speaking.
- She reduces the space between audience and stage. She sits in the front row – and that alone is a notable choice as most people try to hide in the back. But, the act of sitting in the front instantly invites others to join. I suggest you try it and watch the domino effect happen in real-time just like I have.
- She expands the dialogue beyond the stage. She brings the conversation out into the hallways and has a welcoming smile that fuels further conversation. This advances important topics to reach their full potential through thoughtful dialogue off the stage – which I believe is the best part of attending these types of events.
Seemingly small gestures add far more value than anyone may realize at first, but it’s certainly not easy to be the one putting yourself out there. So, at the next conference you attend, I urge you to look inward for what you can do as an attendee and audience member to actively participate.
I’d also invite you to keep an eye out for the “Colleens” in the room that you may want to surround yourself with. Join her, help her, and model her behavior – I can guarantee your experience will be far better for it. Kudos to you, Colleen.