Who are the people that don’t regularly attend conferences?
What are the traits of those that devalue the traditional conference experience?
It seems that what attracts some people to conferences actually repels others. Some see the traditional conference experience as stale and predictable. They are uninterested in spending $1,500-$2,000 in registration, airfare, lodging and expenses for an average experience.
The Perspective Of The Conference Declined
Here are some of the standard characteristics and perspectives of those that don’t want to attend a traditional conference experiences.
Hat tips to authors and researchers Thom & Joani Schultz for their insights about people’s expectations for experiences today.
1. Not Audience-As-Spectators Oriented
While many people enjoy entertainment and a good production, these people don’t view their potential conference attendance as a spectator sport. They don’t feel the need to sit in a ballroom and watch professional speakers perform canned, over-rehearsed presentations. They aren’t enamored with performance, production and pageantry. They want participation.
2. Not Anonymous, Lone Ranger Types
Ultimately people crave relationships. They want to connect with other like-minded individuals. They want to be known and participate in authentic conversations. They do not want to sit in a crowd and seek anonymity. Telling their story and their needs is as important as listening to someone else’s.
3. Not Authority- and Expert-Centric
The internet has provided easy, fingertip access to information. People no longer have to wait for the approved expert to deliver their information from the stage at a conference. Most people are very comfortable accessing and processing an authorities’’ information online, when they need it. These people also believe that the many others have experiences and knowledge to share that is as valuable, if not more valuable, than the conference’s appointed authorized messenger.
4. Not Academic- and Scholarly-Focused
Most people don’t feel that they are lacking scholarly, academic information. Information is everywhere. They want peer, socialized sharing. They are more comfortable in their local Starbucks talking with others than in the lecture. They sense growth comes from a give-and-take honest open discussion than passive consumption of someone else’s monologue or panel dialogue.
5. Not Auditory Motivated
Most people are tired of listening to others tell them what to do and how to do it. They know that listening to someone else doesn’t lead to attitude, behavior and skill change. They’ve got to process it themselves and with others. These people tend to tune out when asked to sit passively and endure a presentation that requires quiet and stillness.
Learning And Networking Still Drivers
These people are not uninterested in learning and networking. They want to learn and connect with others. They just don’t find the traditional conference experience and its overused format the right fit for them. The traditional experience of ballroom lectures and panel dialogues isn’t the way for them to connect their learning with the real world.
Let’s face it. The traditional conference formula is losing its ground with people. It is not the right fit.
Some conferences will continue to do what they’ve always done. They think if they can just do it better, everything will be ok.
People are not looking for better conferences. They are looking for something different!
How can we start conversations with leadership about developing new and different ways to engage people in conference experiences? What new type of conference experiences have you participated in recently?
Michael Hatch says
Jeff, I agree that attendees and conference organizers are looking for “new and different ways to engage people in conference experiences”, but I have another component to add to your request for “What new type of conference experiences have you participated in recently?”
Does anyone have solid examples where a “new type of conference experience” was launched, and it resulted in a solid increase in attendance in the following 1 to 3 years? Or has attendance (the percentage of overall members/audience) remained somewhat the same? And if the percentage has remained somewhat similar, why are those folks still not attending?
Jeff Hurt says
Thanks for reading and your comment.
Yes there are a lot of solid examples of new conference type experiences that have positive results. I’ve learned as a blogger that if I just showcase other good examples of conference change, people just copy them. And when they copy them, they get upset if it fails. It usually fails because they don’t know how to implement within their context and they do not understand the issues underneath the changes needed. That’s why I focus on the issues that need to change, not just the great examples.
Naomi Tucker, CMP says
Great post as always, and I agree with the premise here. People that are looking at attend conferences want to connect now in ways that cannot be done in the comfort of their own surroundings. Most tend to decline a conference because they have “been there, done that”, and the conference only offers more of the “same”. If conferences can capitalize on this need, and find ways to connect people to their unique common interests while increasing engagement, then they might be on to something! I have been apart of conferences that have fostered engagement and participation, and when it is done right, people are overwhelmingly satisfied. Thanks for the intriguing insight. Hopefully this triggers some conversations to provoke higher learning and insight through conferences.
Jeff Hurt says
Thanks for reading and commenting. I like what you said that many decline a conference because they have “been there, done that.” Great point.