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Lasting impressions from an incredible conference – lessons for L&D specialists

Some conferences are good. Others are exceptional. Learn why I think CopyCon 2022 was the best conference I've ever attended.
CopyCon 2022 lanyard

As I closed my eyes, all I could see were vibrant colours, intricate patterns and swirls of constant movement. No, I wasn’t hallucinating. I was just brimming with creativity and inspiration after CopyCon 2022.

It was a one-day copywriting conference full of excellent speakers; with four out of the eight who were truly exceptional.

Ideas, creativity and incredible energy. All coming together at Brighton’s Komedia. A comedy club so full with blue light, I had to change pen colour so I could read my scribbles as I desperately tried to keep up.

There were many highlights from all the speakers. Too many to mention and each deserving of an article in their own right. But there were stand out contributions from Amy Kean, Kevin Chesters, Diane Wiredu and Steve Chapman especially. (I’ve never been so transfixed about a story of a lost cat poster!)

The imagination, weirdness and true delight that each of these people show in their craft was just wonderful to watch. And it’s infectious.

But, as I reflect on the glory of CopyCon, and the literal buzz of my brain as I went to sleep, it makes me sad to think this was the first time I’ve experienced this level of excitement after a conference.  

My background’s HR. It’s where I spent 17 years of my career. And I’ve attended some good training sessions and events. But never have I come away from something so enthused that my brain was literally struggling to keep up.

As I lay down to sleep that night, I felt like I needed to cling on and wait for the ride to stop; such was the intensity of feeling.

Leif Kendall and the team at ProCopywriters managed to achieve something that many Learning and Development specialists can only dream of. And it’s made me consider what exactly it was that contributed to such a result.

Create the buzz… legally

So many things contributed to CopyCon’s success. As an event it sold out around two months before it happened. That, in itself, is a fantastic achievement. But here’s what else I think they did brilliantly to make it really work:

Thoughtful venue selection – whether you loved or hated the blue lighting of Komedia, it created an atmosphere. The low ceilings and dark walls were adorned with technical paraphernalia and lighting that added to the creativity. It was, in many ways, a perfect venue for the event. It played to the attendees’ sense of fun and excitement. And there was an unintended bonus for me, as certain colours failed to appear on the main projector screen which periodically forced me to move my head and literally change my view.

No sales stands – every HR conference I’ve been to is always a combination of conference and trade show. I understand from a commercial perspective why that might be the case, but it doesn’t allow you to immerse yourself in the content. At CopyCon 2022, there were no breakout groups, no loitering salespeople. Just a room filled with spectacular speakers for the entire day.

An entertaining host – this is a role that often gets forgotten for HR events. Or, when it doesn’t the person is pretty dry and acts as a facilitator for timings. But David McGuire (Radix Communications) was a Master of Ceremonies, not a facilitator. He brought elements of the day together effortlessly and his style showed genuine understanding of the people in the room.

Well-considered line up – many events I’ve been to tail off at two key points: after lunch and at the end. After lunch, everyone’s sluggish. So you need someone entertaining and enthusiastic to drag people kicking and screaming back into the sessions. CopyCon did this brilliantly with two fantastic speakers (Steve Chapman and Kevin Chesters) who were truly inspirational immediately after lunch. But they also saved the best until last. The final session of the day (with Amy Kean) brought everyone to a triumphant finish and walking out on a high. No-one was sneaking out early of this event.

So how does CopyCon help L&D Specialists?

I’m not saying every conference must, or can, do all these things. After all, this event stood out for a reason. But I do think it gives food for thought.

When you do in-house training sessions, it’s easy to get caught up in just using the meeting rooms you have available. But if you have the budget, an off-site can make a massive difference to the energy of the delegates. And there’s nothing to stop you adding temporary decoration to meeting rooms to change the atmosphere for a couple of days.  

If it’s an external HR event, really think about the purpose. Are you focusing on traditional expectations of ‘professional events’, or actually looking to break the mould? In which case, maybe an exhibition hall or a conference venue, isn’t what you need.

Whatever you do, you need to find better ways to stick in people’s minds. More inventive approaches that make delegates rush to your sessions.

And ideally give them so much inspiration, they go home and sleep in glorious technicolour, because that’s a feeling that will stay with them forever!

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