02. Identify Specific Topic

In order to capture the audience’s attention to hold a successful forum, it is absolutely critical to identify topics that reflect the needs of industry at that particular period in time or what industry feels will be of interest in the future. There are several ways of doing so, but perhaps one of the most productive ways is to survey the needs of the companies. For example, the survey that was conducted last year by the Drilling Engineering Association (DEA) and the Energy Research Clearing House (ERCH) identified twenty-five topics faced by industry. Individual companies in order of importance to their specific needs or future goals then prioritized these topics.

The question at this stage is which topic do you select? It would seem logical to use the topic with the highest priority reflecting the greatest need by voting companies. However, several key issues must first be examined. What are other organizations investigating? You don’t want to pick a topic that overlaps with what others are exploring. What topic has the greatest possibility of generating the most interest? Will the selected topic meet your objectives? It must be determined, right from the start, what are your goals. In other words, what specific outcome would you like to see as a result of holding a forum? At this point the topic should be of a general nature in hopes of capturing the largest audience and meeting the interest of the largest possible portion of industry.

Once the general topic is selected, an intermediate stage or workshop should be held to narrow down specific key challenges to carry forward. The SWF forum topic resulted from a Deep Water Drilling Workshop held jointly with the DEA and ERCH the previous year. The workshop was an informal meeting where companies expressed their views and discussed with other companies their personal experiences. This workshop lasted for several days and was limited to a specific number of attendees for better interaction. The attendees of the workshop were evenly divided into smaller groups so that each attendee had an opportunity to voice their views and opinions. A combination of several general and break-out sessions followed by voting periods were required to identify the key issues and narrow down the specific topics. The result of this workshop was several topics that the participants felt could be brought to industry for wide support. One of the topics that resulted from this workshop was SWF that was scrutinized in the same manner as the general topic mentioned in the previous paragraph. If industry is not willing to support your ideas, then the success of your forum will be jeopardized.

Lessons Learned:

* Use the most effective means available to determine the needs of industry
* It could take several stages to select the correct key topics
* Don’t assume that you should use the topic with the most interest
* Topics should meet the needs of interested companies in hopes of gaining support from their business units
* Topics should cover multi-disciplinary arena.