Why Your Conference Should Adopt The Healthy Family Metaphor

2014.03.17_Family Gathering

Did your parents expect you to eventually get a job and your own place to live? Mine did.

Did they spend their entire lives loving you, teaching you and training you to eventually make your own decisions? Mine did.

Sure, my parents didn’t want me to move across the globe and never see them again. But they did expect me to grow up, take care of myself, get a job, move out, pay my own bills and eventually start a family.

I bet your parents did something very similar!

Healthy Families Usually Create More Healthy Families

Think about healthy families for just a moment.

Healthy, functional families don’t stay as very close family units forever. They usually don’t live in the same house their entire lives. Parents rarely have an expectation that they will pay for their kids’ food, clothes and wants for the rest of their lives.

Parents teach, love, train and prepare their children to make their own decisions. They expect that at a certain age they will leave their home, go out into the world and start their own families.

The Conference Growth Healthy Family Question

Many conferences foster and nurture family-like units. Without realizing it they have created totally dependent grow-up kids all in the name of membership, familiarity and comfort.

These conference organizers placate long-term attendees by never making any changes. They appease grown-up children that don’t want to invite others into their playground. They mollify those birthright offspring who expect the conference to feel like a well-worn, yet tattered, pair of pajamas—the same as last year, and the year before, and the year before that. They placate legacy speakers to present that same “entry-level” information that they’ve done for the past five, ten, and even twenty years.

So here’s the one question you should ask when you are forced to pacify that battling brood that doesn’t want growth:

How would a healthy family handle this?

If conference growth is your goal, adopt and share the healthy family metaphor. Don’t keep the metaphor private, share it with all.

Are Close Bonds With The Same Few The Conference Goal

Many conference small groups are usually against conference growth.

They believe their tribe’s goal is to get to know everyone and form a close bond with them.

Adding more people just derails that opportunity to be close with those they love. They fear conference growth slaughters closeness and developing bonds.

Here’s a counterintuitive idea:

Conference organizers should not focus on fostering opportunities for like-minded groups to form close bonds.

Sure, drawing close to one another does fill the social need to connect.

But close bonds should be the byproduct rather than the primary goal of being together at a conference. It should be a side-effect of networking and connexity, not your main objective.

Instead, we should create experiences that intentionally add new people to the heritage so these groups can constantly evolve.

Taking A High Road With Connections

We should encourage these long-standing groups to adopt a new vision that advances the profession, the industry or the society.

We should support and promote how each tribe member can spread the passion and wealth of knowledge by being an extension of the tribe.

Healthy things grow and multiply. That vibe is contagious. Healthy things attract! Healthy connexity multiplies.

Remember, adding outsiders may mess up the past but will definitely help sustain the future.

If you only talk about how great it is to have the same people at your conference every year, you have impacted that group but probably not the industry or profession.

Conference growth takes hard work and intentional direction. Creating connexity opportunities for all should be a goal. Adopt the healthy family metaphor for multiplication and growth.

Hat tips to author Seth McBee, president of McBee Advisors, Inc. and leader/trainer/coach of GCM Collective for his thoughts on community multiplication for faith groups.

What are the barriers to adopting the healthy family metaphor for multiplication and growth? What should be the goal of networking and connexity (community and connections)?

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