The future most conference leaders want is at odds with the present they choose.
Conference organizers have not even begun to explore the outer limits of their meeting’s full potential. Currently the conference’s limitless potential is crashing headlong into its leader’s self imposed boundaries and limitations. They sell the conference short.
Bumping Up Against The Past
Conference attendees, full of potential, are currently bumping up against a former, imposed perimeter of carefully crafted entrenched Industrial Revolution mindsets. The conference’s potential is crashing headlong against the choices its organizers made in the past that lessen the participant’s experience.
It’s a collision of values against value; preferences against expectations; and the conference experience the organizer wants versus the choices the leadership is willing to make.
It’s a collision of what the conference leadership gives versus what it takes. What conference participants find in each other versus what they seek from each other.
It’s a collision that is first going to happen inside each attendee, then within the conference as an institution, and then outside of the organization.
It’s a collision of the people leading the conference’s direction versus the consequences of their decisions versus the conference stakeholders’ expectations. It’s a collision of people against a broken, entrenched 20th century institution that will not serve the 21st century.
Becoming A 21st Century Conference
To become one of tomorrow’s great conferences, the conference hosts and organizers cannot merely answer today’s preferences with the mindsets of the past. Conference organizers must seek radical, transformative paths to resolve the contradictions between preference and expectation; past and future; value and values.
Conference organizers and leaders need to escape the toxic tradeoffs of the industrial age. Our audiences enter great halls and listen to us speak. Like a factory conveyor belt each person sits and waits for transformation. Speakers and conference leaders get on the stage and dispense their wisdom as if we can pour information and solutions into audiences’ brains. Then we expect great transformations.
Those attitudes, behavior and skill changes do not occur because they listened to our witty, ten-step platitudes of self-help and success. If we are truly about transforming lives, we must change the way we conference. We must become examples of agility, unlearning and mind-flex adapting to the world’s changes. We must focus on our stakeholders’ first, providing experiences that help them grow and move forward. That can’t happen with speaker monologues and passive audiences.
Making Room For Conference Change
Taking a leap over old ideas and ushering in the new isn’t always easy.
Tossing aside the tried and true for the unknown, no matter how promising, involves investment and risk. Carefully calculated conservative risks may not be enough. It is the time to make courageous choices with bold decisions that lead to audacious results—mainly stakeholder transformation.
21st century conferences that provide transformational stakeholder experiences will be those that succeed in the future. They will be the conferences that continue to attract exhibitors, sponsors and paid registrants.
That means conference leaders and organizers should not look to the past to provide a blueprint for the future. They should create new plans that don’t look like the past with new paths and journeys. They have to focus on creating new experiences. New networking and connexity experiences. New learning experiences. New business experiences.
That’s where conference success of the future resides.
Where do you look for new ideas and suggestions to create new conference stakeholder experiences? What are some of the 20th century conference experiences that you dislike and think should be scrapped?