Experiences are better when conferences are built around people.
The conference experience greatly improves for all stakeholders when they are built around people and their relationships.
Traditional Conference Experience
The traditional conference is built around logistics and content.
The majority of the conference organizer’s time is spent selecting and scheduling speakers. Organizers choose speakers based on their submitted session proposals including their content.
Then the meeting professional focuses on assigning rooms, deciding room capacities and floor plans, and securing audio visual.
The entire planning process revolves around the details and logistics of the meeting. And attendees can sense that the focus is on the details of the conference instead of them.
The Web Evolves
Enter the web. For as the web goes, so do our expectations for businesses, organizations and ultimately conferences.
Today, there is overwhelming evidence that the web is being rebuilt around people. This is a fundamental shift in its architecture.
The web is moving away from being built on content and connecting documents together. It’s moving to connecting people.
1. First phase: Linking documents together.
This often meant copying and pasting print materials online. We interacted with websites of content, not people.
2. Second phase: Interaction with others.
Some websites allowed us to leave comments and review products or services. Most organizations just added social networking buttons to their web page. This was an attempt to bolt social interactions on to their website.
3. Third phase: Websites are now being built around people.
Social behavior is the key feature. It is not an add-on or after-thought.
Social Networks Are Old
Social networks are not new.
For thousands of years, people have belonged to groups. They have built strong and weak relationships with others. They have formed allegiances and relied on each other.
Humans are social creatures with a basic, driving need to connect with others. Whether its information, advice, emotional support or a sense of belonging, we turn to one another.
The rebuilding of the web is just our online life catching up with our offline life.
Conferences Should Be Built Around People
Conferences that place people, rather than content or logistics, at the center of their model will thrive and outperform others in the future.
Attendees are demanding and expecting more time to connect and communicate with others at the event. They are taking the experience into their own hands and setting up meetings with others to learn, connect and discuss business. They are avoiding the traditional conference education session in favor of connecting with others.
Successful conferences will focus less on the logistics and more creating experiences that foster communication, interactions and relationship building of their attendees. They will focus less on providing experiences that transfer information and more on experiences that will allow people to discuss content, share stories and build connections.
This means designing experiences that intentionally promote discussion, communication, networking and relationship building. This means less talking heads and more rooms buzzing with energy and sound as people talk to one on one or in small groups.
Our conferences need to reflect the same shift that is occurring on the web. They need to be less about content and information and more about people.
How can conference organizers place people and human behavior at the center of their planning process? What are some things organizers can provide to attendees that will cultivate communication and networking with each other?