Very few of us want to see our conferences grow and expand. Right?
Similarly, very few of us are willing to make changes to the conference agenda, planning process and attendee experience all in the name of growth. Right again!
We do everything we can to avoid change. So if change is associated with conference growth, which in turn means more work, we say phooey on conference growth. Let’s just be like we’ve always been. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Crash And Boom
Here are five glowing examples of how to ensure that conference growth crashes and burns. How many of them do you use on a regular basis?
1. Never ask anyone new to speak or lead.
Make sure the buck always stops with the same speakers you’ve used for decades. The last thing you want to do is empower anyone to be a leader or expert.
2. Ignore a unified conference context.
By all means encourage your special interest groups, small self-chosen communities and like-minded clusters to stay scattered. Ask them to do their own thing and keep it close to the vest. The last thing you want is for your conference to have a culture that embraces and invites everyone to get involved. You want to ignore that everyone has a point of view, some experience and some knowledge to share. Why? Because that will lead to a ton of conversations and a ton of connections. The more unified in a shared conference vision, the more people it will attract and that only leads to growth. Imagine if your conference attendees gave up their time, money and comfort for the sake of profession or industry. Proposterous!
3. Keep it organic and forget a plan!
No planning, at all! You don’t want your conference to look like it has intentionality in purpose, direction and vision. And never, ever write that intentionality for all to see, share and trust. If you have a plan, people might just feel like they can get involved.
4. Do not at any cost interact with non-members or untraditional customers!
If you interact with nonmembers they might just get in the way. Untraditional customers and nonmembers don’t always believe what members believe. You only want people around you who believe like you do so that everyone gets along smoothly! What happens if a nonmember actually talks to you, gets involved, and continues to attend the conference…as a nonmember? It definitely messes with your group dynamic.
5. Avoid the rhythms of our life and keep your conference as a one-time annual event.
If you keep your conference as a one-time annual occurring event each year, people will just see it as another meeting. No need to advance a mission or strategic direction. Plus if you just keep it as an event, less people desire to have another meeting in their lives; much less one they have to pay to attend. Then they will feel overwhelmed to plan everything around your conference-event. It will just add more stress to their lives. On the other hand, rhythms bring forth the idea of naturally occurring things in our lives like rest, fun, work, learning and families. Rhythms are part of life rather than a conference.
Adapted from author Seth McBee’s sardonic wit about growth.
What are some other ways you’ve seen conferences can impede growth? What are some things that keep conference organizers from creating a vision and plans for growth?