Dear Conference Organizers:
This relationship isn’t working out. You know, the one between us, the attendees, and you the conference organizers. It’s time for us to explore other educational, community-building and networking opportunities. We’ve tried to make it work. But it’s not us — it’s you (really).
We thought we would do things together. We were hoping we could talk more. With you. With your leaders. With your community. With our friends. But that hasn’t happened. We only get to listen.
We are tired of sitting, passively listening to talking head egos drone on about topics that you thought would attract us. We are tired of racing in the hallways to find our community, our like-minded colleagues so we can connect with them. We are tired of attending breakfasts and lunches where you flaunt your relationships with big money and don’t allow us time to talk to the people at our own table.
You monopolize our time when we meet. It’s all about your messages. Your ideas. Your people. Your needs. Your problems. Your partners. Your issues.
It’s all about you. You, you, you.
You just don’t seem to understand our needs. You think you can continue to plan our rendezvous the way you’ve always done them in the past. But those meetings have become too familiar, too predictable. They have lost their spark. Their excitement. Their emotion. Their romance.
You think that paying attention to the details, the logistics, and the specifics will maintain our relationship. You spend more time on the setup than you do on the content of our connections. You think feeding us the latest organic food and greening our meeting will make us want to continue to connect with you. You think that a logistically sound meeting will maintain our relationship.
But that has become old. You’re a one-trick pony without much creative thought into our educational and connecting desires. You think that our relationship is built on minutiae, organization and a glut of information. You’ve spent so much time controlling the particulars of our connections that you’ve forgotten that we are real humans. And you’re expensive for what we are getting in return.
We have feelings. Thoughts. Ideas. Reflections. Our own stories and experiences. We need time to connect with others. Share. Learn. Explore new possibilities. We need to experience things together. We need dedicated time to talk. We need and thrive on conversations. We can’t continue to meet like we have in the past. Frankly, you bore us.
At first, you romanced us. You courted us with your flashy marketing pieces and smooth talk. You went out of your way to meet and connect. We fell for your handsome, beautiful, well-dressed look. But underneath, you were void of substance. It was a good-looking shell absent of any depth. You were offering us very shallow, over-clichéd subject matter. It’s so last century. It feels stagnant, stuck, out of touch with reality.
We are not sure if you’ve noticed, but we actually stopped attending most of your education offerings some time ago. If you had been paying attention, you would see that we are gathering together elsewhere to chat about our issues, our problems, our needs not your industry panel. We went as far as to form our own communities online. When we attend your conferences, we schedule our own meet-ups there. Heck, if you were even present, you would see that sometimes we do a mass exodus from your education offerings because they are mostly information dumps instead of participatory experiences.. But, you don’t even come to see if we are connecting with your friends, family and leaders. You’re stuck in a committee or board meeting. You’re not even supporting us and your most critical offering, our annual meeting.
You would be much better off with finding people that are as enamored with your organization and your messages as you are. You probably will continue to be on the relationship revolving door using people until their eyes are opened.
If you want to keep us, you must change. You must adapt to the 21st century where things are done differently than in the past. You must craft meetings that focus on community building. Meetings that spark conversations about our problems and issues. Meetings that allow us to meet and connect with others. Meeting with less content and more onsite content co-creation.
There, I’ve said it. It needed to be said. I hope you were listening. I hope this is the last Dear John/Jane letter you ever receive. Let us know if you decide to change.
In the meantime, we wish you all the best.
Last year’s conference attendees.