August 22, 2012 by Jeff Hurt
Imagine it’s 2084.
You are craving a new experience that you’ve not had in the past.
You decide to visit Rekall to get a memory implant of a new vacation experience.
This is the setting of the 1990 movie Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger or the 2012 remake with Colin Farrell.
While Total Recall is set in the future, it is a perfect illustration of today’s society that is consumed with collecting experiences.
Most conferences are about knowledge. They are about rational, logical explanations of stuff. Or they are about connecting with people who have more knowledge than we do.
Typically, organizers secure experts to dispense their knowledge on specific subjects. Attendees try to collect as much knowledge as possible as they race from session to session.
The challenge is that we forget most of the information that is shared at the conference. Seldom do we walk away with a real understanding of how to apply the information we heard. Learning is rare. We are just not hard wired to remember and recall everything we hear and see.
Today’s culture expects something different. People are looking for experiences instead of knowledge and information. They can find information online. Interesting and engaging experiences are more difficult to find.
Consider today’s conference attendees for example. They don’t want secondhand experiences. They don’t care about a conference experience that someone else defines through tradition, bureaucracy or old-guard leadership.
Many of today’s attendees are not willing to go through the tradition and culture of conferences of the past. They won’t participate unless it is new, fresh and they can customize it.
They want an encounter with the conference and the other attendees. They want an experience with the content. They want the feel of a new consciousness which is the key to personal and social change.
They don’t want information dispensed the way it’s always been done. They want content laced with experience. And the more extreme the experience, the better!
And before you start spouting that older generations don’t want new experiences, consider this: senior citizens are the true party animals! The average household headed by a 65-74 year old spends more on entertainment than the average household of a 25 year old. (The New Consumer Paradigm, American Demographics).
Today’s culture has replaced a work ethic with an experience ethic. They value experiences.
Considering the experience ethic for a conference is not just opening a can of worms. It’s opening a whole tub of worms.
Why? Experiences can become addictive. And today’s attendees collect and compare experience like they collect stuff. They will compare your conference experience to last year’s and other conference experiences that they’ve attended or read about. They rank and judge conference experiences. And they share those experiences with others.
It also becomes harder for conference organizers to create new experiences, especially when organizers are trained to repeat the past. More time and energy needs to be spent in re-imagining the conference experience instead of replicating what’s always been done.
It’s time for more conference organizers to open the tub of worms and find more Geist in their Zeit! Because today’s conference attendees are hungry for new experiences!
Read more about Creating EPIC Conferences
How has the experience economy affected your daily life? What are some of the barriers to creating conference experiences versus the traditional conference?
Filed Under: Event Planning, Experience Design
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