I spent today at a meeting of the Financial Services Forum. This was a gathering of people working in financial services with an interest in marketing.
This was well above average for conferences and it struck me that people were engaged in debate rather than slumbering through powerpoint. This was partly as it was staged in a TV studio and recorded like a TV show which meant you never knew if a camera was watching you. (And it was very disconcerting when asking a question to find a giant version of my purple shirt on a big screen in fromt of me as I spoke!).
What really made it tick was Anthony Thomson who hosted the show. He did this really well, challenging his guests and picking members of the audience by name and challenging them as well to express a view. He seems to strike just the right balance of being provocative in a good spirited way. As a result the audience was engaged and not passive.
And this fits a prejudice of mine: satsifying a group of people is not about being driven by them, it involves being willing to challenge them.