I’ve often wondered why some innovative new products take traction and become part of our daily lives (social media), and others (augmented reality), don’t.

The reason is quite simple. It’s the products that transcend novelty – to become utility, that stick around.

Facebook was a novelty, now it’s a utility. Scanning QR codes was a novelty, now it’s a utility. Augmented Reality was a novelty, now it’s…

…Look, Google is trying with their new walking AR directions. I tried them last week while speaking at LinkedIn in Chicago *THUD* (aaaah, the sweet sound of a name-dropped). It was cute, for two minutes, but ultimately not that useful.

How do we know when something is a novelty or a utility?

It’s a novelty when it’s used by your marketing department, it’s a utility when it’s used elsewhere in the business. When social media started it was used by marketing, but as it took hold it got used by customer service and HR. It’s worth noting here that I’m not saying this to be disparaging to marketing, the opposite in fact, the good ones will always find the new and co. This is more just a litmus test for utility.

So why am I telling you this?

I’m telling you this because you have got a utility that’s sitting in the novelty bin – and your business is suffering because of it.

That utility is your company conference.

We’ve worked in this space for 22 years at Missing Link, and every time the mandate is novelty, “forget the boring presentations, we want to do something different, something novel.”

You know who is not doing something novel? TED!

Do they change their format every time to keep things fresh? No, they’ve found something that works and they’ve doubled down on it. They get away with it because what makes a great TED conference is new well presented information, not new cute ways of presenting it.

Marketing is doing their job, they are making sure that the conference is remembered, pity though, as they should be making sure that the content is remembered.

Typically, less than five per cent of the conference budget is spent on delivering the information that will move the needle of the business, but because of this, the only needle getting moved is the second hand of the conference room clock.

I challenge you to change that, turn your next conference from a novelty to a utility. Spend less at the bar, and more on raising-the-bar.

You never know, you may just change your people enough that they change your business…!