It’s just not the conference is used to be!
That’s a common complaint from long-term conference attendees. Often they resist changes or conference growth.
Conference organizers have to carefully watch placating these long-term attendees versus attracting new ones. Sometimes, we have to let the legacy attendees complain or leave in order to make the appropriate changes for growth. Change is never easy or we all would embrace it fast.
Common Change Complaints
Why does forward-change and progression affect some attendees so negatively? Here are seven possible reasons for the complaints. Hat tips to author Thom Rainer who wrote a similar article for faith based institutions.
1. Loss of Familiarity
As conferences grow, they become different events over time. That difference is not necessarily good or bad. However, the event is not the same as it was in the past. Some long-term attendees grieve when they see their intimate conference change. They miss the good ole’ days.
2. Loss of Memories
Some attendees grieve the loss of specific micro-events within the conference that helped them meet others (a specific type of networking reception), gain an upper hand (traditional education session) or have an epiphany. They associate a specific size of conference with that life-changing moment.
3. Loss of Comfort
Some of us like our well-worn house shoes, jeans or pajamas. However, our family and friends tell us they have to go. We like their comfort. Change can mean that the event gets larger, attracts a different crowd or creates a new schedule. Some feel that their well-worn conference creature comforts get comprised by the new growth and change.
4. Loss of Power
New people at a conference can mean that the legacy power-base becomes diluted. New influencers gain an upper hand. Some of those traditional, long-term attendees may not like it.
5. Loss of Perceived Intimacy
“I used to know everyone attending this conference. I just don’t feel as close to these people as I once did,” is a common complaint. Sure, growth and change can mean that attendees do not know everyone like when the event was smaller. However, it’s an opportunity to meet new people and new ideas.
6. Loss of Style
New attendees might want a different conference style experience than the traditional lecture, parade of award winners and pageantry. These new attendees often influence leaders to make changes to attract others like them. Long-term attendees may resent these changes. They might even start conference style wars.
7. Loss of Time
Conference changes may result in a new schedule and different types of session formats or times. Some legacy attendees may be frustrated that they lost their time in the traditional or old formats.
Nurture Healthy Conference Attendees
Sure, some attendees feel that the conference is there to serve them and cater to their needs. They don’t like it when the conference adapts to new cultures or contexts. Helping attendees understand the conference’s goal and mission can create healthy attendees that are willing to grow with the conference changes.
How can you help curb the anti-change conference attendee mentality? What other change complaints would you add to this list?