Rafat Ali and Brian Quinn: How to Make a Bad Conference Good

Skift Take

Skift's CEO Rafat Ali and Head of Events Programming Brian Quinn dissect why thoughtful programming and engaging content are the true game-changers for successful conferences.

In this special bonus episode of The Skift Meetings Podcast, Skift CEO Rafat Ali is joined by Skift Meetings Executive Editor Andrea Doyle and Head of Events Programming Brian Quinn to discuss the current state of conferences. 

Prompted by Ali’s LinkedIn post critiquing the lack of thoughtful programming, attendee experience, and speaker support at conferences, the panel explores the importance of content in driving successful events. They emphasize that while logistics and technology have improved, the core issue remains the quality of on-stage programming.

Ali and the team highlight the need for event organizers to prioritize speaker experience and content curation, noting that effective conferences should focus on delivering valuable insights and fostering networking opportunities. They also discuss the role of experiential elements and the necessity of creating an engaging atmosphere to make conferences more appealing and beneficial for attendees. The trio wraps up the conversation with reflections on the evolving events landscape and the continuous need for innovation and thoughtful execution in conference planning.

What They Said

Rafat Ali: “If you’re not giving the speaker a good experience, why would the audience get a good experience? It was a mix of these types of experiences that sort of came out in this post that resonated.”

Brian Quinn: “At the end of the day, you could get all of the lighting, the logistics, the design, all of that right. But if the conversation just sucks on stage, it’s gonna be the main thing, the piece that people remember.”

Andrea Doyle: “Survey after survey shows people attend conferences… to network and to meet other people in the audience that could help them on their career journey. But most, they just put out a fruit and vegetable platter, have some wine, and call that a networking event when it’s not.”