So many people ask me, “If ______________ (fill in the blank) is so important for conferences, why aren’t more conferences implementing it?”
“So you wait to make changes to your event once you see other conferences are already doing it?” I respond. “You wait to copy someone else instead of being the leader?”
Frequently, conference planning teams wait until others have tried something before they’ll embrace it. They are risk-averse followers, gripping on to the status quo instead of becoming risk taking leaders. However, leading conference organizers know that focusing on implementing changes that provide significance for attendees, will empower success and momentum, regardless if others are doing it or not.
The Network Economy’s Tipping Point
Business, organizations and networks have always had a tipping point.
A tipping point is the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change. In modern day society, a tipping point is when something has become common place.
In today’s network economy, tipping points are below the levels of industrial times says founding executive editor of Wired, Kevin Kelly. Smaller collections can lead to runway dominance he says. (Hat tips to Kelly’s personal reflections and writings about tipping points, technology and innovations.)
This means that the period before the tipping point, the threshold of significance before a direction, innovation, movement or product must be taken seriously, is also dramatically lower than it was in the past. Learning to detect events that are just below that threshold becomes increasingly imperative.
In the past, a particular initiative’s or innovation’s momentum indicated its significance. Today, significance precedes momentum.
The Lily Pad Parable
Scientists share a parable about the lily pad, which doubles in size every day.
The day before it covers the entire pond, the pond is only half covered. The day before that, it is only one-fourth covered. The day before that , it is only one-eighth covered. And so on.
So it is only in the last week of the lily pad’s cycle that observers notice its sudden appearance. By then it is far past its tipping point.
The Conference Industry Lily Pad
Today’s conference industry is our lily pad.
By the time your conference planning team recognizes that other conferences have implemented more ___________(fill in the blank), it is far past the tipping point. Examples of innovations that could be placed in the blank include a conference mobile app, interactive education sessions instead of lectures, more focused and intentional networking, curated sessions revolving around one or two primary issues, room sets based on how attendee’s will behave instead of maximum room capacity, transformative conference experiences instead of informational ones, organic and locally grown food, longer sessions instead of shorter ones, segmented marketing for target markets, etc.
Right now the shift for more meaningful conference education, networking and transformative experiences along with the integration of technology tools are mere tiny microorganisms festering in the pond. Soon they will be past the tipping point.
One thing you need to remember and embrace: Significance precedes momentum.
What significant conference changes have you implemented that are ahead of the tipping point? What significant conference changes do you see occurring in the near future?