A friend of mine called Marque (yes, that is how he spells his name, long story) has a wonderful theory about restaurants. He believes that every restaurant anywhere in the world has Chicken Schnitzel on the menu. It might be called something different, but it’s always there if you look hard enough. Scaloppine, escalope, katsu…call it what you like, but look closely, you can always find a Schnitzel. Even fast food restaurants serve Schnitzel – what is a Chicken McNugget if not just a tiny Schnitzel?

Interesting theory and Marque is full of them. But following a recent dinner with Marque (he ordered the Schnitzel, called ‘Schnitzel’ at the restaurant we attended) it occurred to me that the Schnitzel concept applies to conferences too. There are certain things found on pretty much every conference agenda – regardless of industry, country, budget or size of the event and regardless of what they are named on the Agenda.

And that fact (perhaps unlike Schnitzel) is not always a good thing.

The “Opening Welcome” by the Industry President or Company CEO. You’ll see that at the start of pretty much every conference, regardless of whether the delegates are interested in what they have to say or perhaps more importantly, whether that person is an interesting speaker with something important to say.

A “Q & A Panel Discussion”. 99% of conferences have them, featuring either the leadership team or industry experts. These can be valuable and provide an informal, informative session. But they can just as often be yawn-inducing and elicit little or no genuine questions from the delegates.

“Pre-dinner networking drinks”, “Gala Dinner”, “Closing Words from the CEO”, a “Sponsors Passport” whereby delegates are encouraged to visit each exhibitor and get their cardboard passport stamped, to win a Fitbit or i-Watch.

I’m not saying all these things should be abolished. I’m simply suggesting that conference organisers and conference committees should always consider novel ways to structure their events, to do things differently, shake the model up, ask “do we really need this session?” etc.

Perhaps look at your draft Agendas and (WARNING – Metaphor Stretching Ahead) try to remove some of the Conference Schnitzel off your Menu, unless of course you are sure all the delegates love Schnitzel and 2016’s evaluation results actually called for ‘more Schnitzel please.’

If not, maybe consider replacing the Conference Schnitzel from your Conference Menu with some Conference Sushi, Semolina or Samosa.

Andrew Klein a Conference Speaker and MC. If you’re wondering, he does enjoy eating Schnitzel. 

As an aside – surely 14 mentions of the word “Schnitzel” in the one LinkedIn Post has to be some kind of record?