June 1, 2015 by Jeff Hurt
Creating a conference culture of connection is a robust competitive advantage.
One of the most powerful and often misunderstood aspects of successful conferences is authentically connecting with others. Too often our conference networking experiences disintegrate into ego driven, self-promotional, self-exploiting opportunities.
It is irrational not to intentionally create conference experiences that nurture and promote authentic connections. Especially given the evidence about the importance and need for human connection. Fostering genuine deep connections throughout your event is a win-win for attendees, your conference and your host organization.
Your attendees are humans not machines. They are not a means to an end—paid attendees that result in your profit. They are not a cog in your conference machine, insignificant, immaterial and invisible.
They are real people with real emotions, real hopes and real dreams.
They come to your event seeking connections, insights and solutions to their most pressing needs.
Your job as a conference organizer is to:
Authentic conference connections—not faux speed networking—create an emotional bond between attendees.
Those experiences promote collaboration, cooperation, esprit de corps and trust. Self-centered attendees evolve into group-centered communities.
The result: attendees are more trusting and willing to share with colleagues. They freely disclose their personal experiences and knowledge. They help each other make educated decisions
When this happens, registrants experience bona fide connections, community and unity.
Attendees that feel they have real, valid deep connections with others are more engaged in the event. And they are less likely to jump to a competitor.
Attendees that have collected a mass of business cards feel as if they had fake, unreliable, phony experiences. They feel as if they were fresh meat to a horde of carnivores.
What type of culture does your conference promote?
What type of culture does your organization promote? More than likely, your conference culture is a mirror of your organizational culture.
Your conference culture fosters one of the following three psychosocial cultures say authors Michael Lee Stallard, Jason Pankau and Katharine Stallard:
These conference cultures create an environment of fear, manipulation and dominance. Leaders exert power, and influence as they rule over others. Leaders wield command over whether people can leave sessions or risk forfeit of their credit. These conference cultures are stifling. Attendees feel micromanaged, hyper-criticized and oppressed. Leaders dismiss the need for building relationships as everything is viewed as transactional to meet regulations.
This is the most predominant type of conference culture today. Conference owners, exhibitors, sponsors and many attendees are too busy chasing business, money, power and status. Few attendees invest the time to develop healthy, supportive connected relationships. The result: conference leaders do not see the value in developing authentic connections. Attendees feel like a cog in a conference machine.
In conference cultures of connections, people care about others and their work. They invest time to develop healthy, dependable relationships. This bond helps them overcome the differences that have divided people in the past. Conference organizers create befriending experiences where people can connect on a deeper level than speed networking or passive meet and greets.
Want more information? Read Connection Culture: Where Human Connection Meets Work.
Which of these three types of cultures reflect your conference leadership’s way of thinking and behaving? Describe a conference experience that you’ve attended where you were eager to attend and immersed in the experience or one where you dreaded attending and struggled to be present in the experience.
Filed Under: Conference Networking, Experience Design
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