Some of you who gather your lawyers together once a year or so might benefit from a few of my observations from a recent conference. The three-day conference was excellently sited and orchestrated.
1. Panels with multiple speakers always go beyond the allotted time, and the more speakers on the panel the more the clock runs over.
2. More generally, almost everyone seems to push the clock. When people are talking about what they do, they lose track of time. Schedules are made to be disregarded.
3. Few people leave enough time for questions at the end of their talk. The difficulty is that most speakers worry that they will come to the end and the silence of no questions will embarrass them. Or, perhaps, the prospect of ad lib questions makes them nervous.
4. Transitions between speakers take 3-5 minutes, but all schedules pretend that the hand offs are simultaneous. Slide shows need to be changed, mikes sorted out, papers shuffled, whispers exchanged, etc.
5. Fewer PowerPoint slides are better than more PowerPoint slides, especially the deadly bullet-point slides.
6. Breakout sessions alter the flow of talking heads, but it take more time than planners think to get the logistics done, instructions understood, cell-phones silenced, and breakouts fully underway.
7. A signup board lets people seek out others who would like to talk about a topic. Not everything can be planned and not every moment should be designated for something.
8. If you have a large law department and you host a dinner for everyone, be sure to mix people up. One of the main purposes of a conference is to make it easier for people to meet each other.