September 5, 2012 by Jeff Hurt
Name two words that describe the web today.
Connected and community are two that come to my mind.
Amazon and eBay say they are in the connexity business-making connections and building communities. Both companies demonstrate that the web is less an information source than a social medium.
Conferences need to shift to become more of a connexity business. They need to transition from information channels to being a catalyst for making connections and building communities. They can secure speakers that provide solutions to specific communities’ issues. They use content as a connector to like minded people.
Our pursuit of individualism has created a hunger for more connectedness. We yearn for communities not of blood relatives or countries but communities of choice.
People now come to your conference to find their community. Often their online actions drive them to want to meet face to face with like minded individuals. As a conference organizer, you can help them find their community of choice.
Conferences should capitalize on our culture’s need of connexity. They should help people connect and build a community online. Then create gathering places onsite like watering holes that people will go to so that they can connect with their like minded people face to face.
The conference becomes the catalyst for connection and community.
Conference participants of today want to enjoy a self-identity within a connected framework of like minded individuals. They turn to these self-chosen communities for civic virtue, neighborliness and values.
Even introverts and painfully shy people who are socially challenged need connectedness. Even those who find community painful and persecuting need connectedness. We all have this driving hunger to be with people that understand us and have challenges similar to ours. We want to belong.
Me is inextricably connected to we. Even when we feel most alone, “I” am connected and dependent on a global mix of “us” communities. I am so entangled with these communities that it is almost impossible to escape. Even when I don’t want to belong, I find a driving need to reach out.
In the past century, everything was individual and little was communal. Today’s culture is more communal. Conferences of today must adopt this mantra: “To Be: Me needs to be We!” As the Xhosa people of southern Africa say, “I am because we are.”
We have to help our conference participants learn the difference between a life rich in connections and a life rich in contacts or rich in networking. The differences can either repel or fulfill the hunger in the soul.
Ultimately, our conferences need to create participatory experiences that help people find connections on a much more personal level. Speed networking sessions are not the answer. Obtaining more contacts doesn’t fulfill the basic driving need. Creating conference watering holes where like minded individuals can sit, discuss and restore the soul are critical to success today.
Conferences are in the connexity business.
How would you feel about a conference that had rules that said “At this community gathering spot, for discussions, no religion and no politics?” What has to change for conferences to transition for information channels to community connection builders?
Filed Under: Conference Education, Experience Design
Oh goody another new made up word! Connexity is pretty good as new words go though, but more importantly the points you raise are critical for the future of conferences and business. Having always been more of a “people collector” than a card collector, I have always been a proponent of creating time and space within meetings and thank you for your continued, thorough and thoughtful reminders about both why we need to do this and how we can.
I will be at PCMA in January and would like to put up my hand now for hosting my own water cooler. But a really cool water cooler with delicious water and maybe an LED base and an extra plugin so both people and their devices for online connections can both recharge!
Very true Jeff. There is so much power in knowledge that can be shared when the real and true “connexity” happens. This kind or exchanged information needs not to be rushed like a quick exchange of business cards, or a ten minute coffee. Those that realize this difference have seen the fruitful results in the long run.
Thanks for reading and commenting. I like what you said, “There is so much power in knowledge that can be shared with the real and true ‘connexity’ happens.” Great point!
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