Ladders and bananas

Today, Kevin talks to Cyriel Kortleven about ladders and bananas in the event business. Would you like to find out how these matters are related? Stay tuned and find out. 

Kevin Van der Straeten
Comment on this tv episode

Do you have an account on Log in here
Do not have an account yet? Write your comment here:

Also available as a podcast:

Also on podcast:

Listen on Google PodcastsListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Shopify


Today, I talk to Cyriel Kortleven about ladders and bananas in the event business. Would you like to find out how these matters are related? Stay tuned and find out.  


Hi Cyriel. Welcome to our studio.  




Today we are going to talk about ladders and bananas. But what is that about? 


Yes, yes. I can imagine that the title already triggers you. It’s a metaphor. A lot of times when people want to change, they only change when there is a problem. If things are going well, why should you change? And in this metaphor, the banana peel is the problem. Because somebody can fall over a banana peel. So what I see happening in a lot of companies is that the management team gathers they hire consultants and then after two months, they come with a solution. And the solution is, we put a ladder on top of the banana peel. Then nobody will fall. But you immediately feel that it’s probably not the most efficient...




...solution. But what happens, we try it once and it works and then we say okay, from now on, this ladder is the new rule, it’s the way of working, this is our culture. If you see a problem like a banana peel, take the ladder. And it’s quite hard when you do this for a longer time - people are getting used to following those ladders - it’s quite hard to remove those ladders. Because people are used to it. You also have people who are responsible for the ladder. You know they’re responsible for the procedures. So if you start to say, hey, we remove the ladder then a lot of people say, hey, we can’t do this because we need it. 




At those moments you should think in a different way, I think. 


But how is that then linked to the event industry? 


I also see in the event business, if you look at conference events, that a lot of events are always organized in the same way. And if it’s working well, fine. But I also see for example, some people or participants are complaining, we need more time. Because the programs are so scheduled and we have two minutes. And then you have fifteen minutes to have a coffee break and people want more time. But we think it’s a ladder, that no, we need to give a lot of content and we have to keep people busy. 


That’s what people pay for. 


Yes, it’s true but sometimes it can be nice to have one hour of space to speak to each other. Or maybe the gadgets that we give, the sponsors need to give something so at the end of the conference all the participants get a bag with gadgets. It’s getting less and less happy about it because the world is changing. So maybe we also have to come with some, yes, solutions. How can we do it in a different way? You know, how can we solve the banana problem? You know, we want to deliver content, okay, but do we need a really full schedule? Or could we solve it...  


But how do you start with it? 


One method that’s quite easy, that might work, it’s called assumptions, breaking assumptions. What you do is you make a list of all the things that you normally have at a conference. So you have a location, you have participants, you have a start hour, you have a certain flow you have key note speakers. And then, the next step is once you have your list, you start to break some assumptions. 


No guests. 


What would happen if you have no guests? 

Okay but maybe we don’t have physical guests. Maybe this conference is only online. 




Or things like that. And I was looking for a few examples and I found some interesting ones. One is called, the Lost Lectures. In the UK they’re already experimenting with it. Normally, you plan an event and you know the place where it will happen who are the speakers, who is coming. But the Lost Lectures is a different concept. You get on a mailing list as a participant and a few hours in advance you get a mail with tonight, there is a Lost Lecture. It’s at that location. You don’t know who the speakers are. 


It's an interesting concept - probably I'm now thinking in bananas - but as an organizer that’s kind of difficult. Because you need to know how many guests there will be for the catering and for all the other logistics. 


Yes, but you could solve that by, for example, saying, we make it very exclusive. So you know that you have quite a long list of people who want to attend. And it’s exclusive. So people say, wow, I want to be there. And you could say: maximum hundred participants and then we stop. So you could organize it around, okay, once we have hundred participants, then it goes on and otherwise, we do something different. 


And apparently, it’s quite a big success. Because people want to be there and it’s quite special. I’ve been to the Lost Lectures. And it’s spreading. It’s a bit like, a viral thing. 




Yes. Another element or concept that I found, normally one of the things that are quite usual at an event is that you have one speaker on stage and all the audience is listening. But the silent conference is a concept where you have four or five speakers who present at the same time. So you have different corners in the room. It’s one room. They have their slides and they have a icrophone. And the audience, they all have wireless headsets and they can switch: oh, now I’m listening to that guy or that girl I’m going to switch to audio number three and then listen to that story for 15 minutes. And they think, oh, it’s a bit boring, I turn around and I go to a different speech. And you don’t have to plan a whole event, a whole conference like this. But I can imagine if you’re at an event and you do this maybe in the afternoon for one hour, it could bring a very nice discussion. 


It could be an interesting concept to skip the speech of the CEO in the beginning. 




To give an alternative. 


Yes, give an alternative to see what’s happening. But I also think when you have, maybe at events where you work with entrepreneurs or starters, a lot of times, you have a lot of people who want to present and now you give them a stage. I can imagine that people will switch a few times so maybe you get more insights or… So that kind of elements are some examples of, okay, how can you get rid of that ladder and do something else? You also have the unconference. I can imagine that some people have already heard of the unconference. Instead of having an expert who is explaining everything to the people, use the wisdom of the crowd. You have the people, the participants who are there, they also know a lot of the topic. Otherwise they wouldn’t be coming to that theme. So do a world café or an open space or a mega brainstorm. And let the audience create the content. Instead of, as a conference organizer: oh, I have to deliver the content. No. It’s there. You have to facilitate the process. That’s something different. Yes. But that might be interesting too. Because everybody’s complaining, events have to be interactive. We need to get closer to our clients. These kinds of examples are quite interesting. 


And why is it so important to change things to our events? Because, if they are okay and running good, why would you change anything? 


Yes, I totally agree. If things are going well, please don’t change it. You know, if people are not complaining about a procedure or ladder or... perfect! But if you want to change something, because the world is changing, or because your clients are saying oh, it should be a bit more interactive. Or if you want to have a new format. When I work with event organizers, a lot of times I get the question: my client wants to do something different. Then these kinds of elements, you know, breaking those assumptions can help you to come up with new things. So if it is going well, please continue. But I’m also not saying that you have to change everything at one moment. No. But do it slowly. You know, change something small and see what happens. If people like it, perfect. If not, okay, you change back to the old pattern. 


An interesting view, Cyriel. Thank you very much. 




And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.