Forecasting The Future Of Conferences: Trends You Should Adopt Now


Your conference today is where it is based upon the decisions you as a conference organizer made in the past.

The decisions you make today about your conference creates your conference’s future. You ability to anticipate your conference participants’ challenges and opportunities impact your ability to plan and strategize your conference.

We’ve talked about conference predictions here and here. Many of those trends have already been adopted. Here are four new trends you should consider, plan for and adopt now for your conference.

1. The Brain Health Revolution

Dr. Kenneth Cooper is often credited with jump starting the physical fitness revolution in the 1960s. His revolutionary work on exercise and healthy eating became the foundation for the way we consider healthy bodies today.

We are on the verge of a brain health revolution says UT’s Chancellor William McRaven. We are just starting to understand how to take care of our brains and increase our brain’s fitness.

Savvy conference organizers are taking advantage of the numerous scientifically validated actions they can plan for their conference participants to extend their cognitive capacity. Many are bridging the gap between scientific discovery and application to encourage mentally and cognitively robust conference participation to its fullest.

2. Creating Contagious Conference Cultures

Too often conference organizers create experiences that are for consumers. Frequently, we talk about hospitality that cultivates guests. Guests are still passive consumers. They consume a prescribed experience from a host.

I believe that conferences are moving participants from consumers to guests to friends. When we create contagious conference cultures were participants become friends of and with each other we jump start authentic connections.

In these conference experiences, we invite the conference leadership to take accountability for the conference culture. We invite them to show up with intention, presence and action. And to invite other participants to show up full of curiosity and vulnerability. We invite them to intentionally contribute and reciprocate those actions with others.

Conference cultures that nurture befriending and allow guest to become co-creators of the experience create contagious cultures. Then these friends of the conference adopt the conference experience as their own and invite others into that rich experience.

3. The Conference Planning Team Increases Self-Reflection And Observation

Many conference organizers spend their onsite hours in the show office or running from session to session ensuring that room sets are correct. Instead, they are moving out of the onsite office to observe participants in action. They are going to start observing the intangible elements that have a huge impact on the conference. Their internal telescopes will peer into the conference experience as well as their participants’ minds.

4. Collaboration Is King Of Engagement

Collaborative Intelligence is on the rise! One of the biggest challenges with traditional conference is the focus on delivery of information. Instead, we adopt the mantra that “Great minds don’t think alike. They lean to think together and think differently!” as author Dawna Markova says.

Our conference participants have the ability to deeply affect other people. They can grow one another’s capacity as well as diminish it.

Savvy conference organizers are developing conference experiences that nurture participants’ ability to think with others on behalf of what matter to their industry the most. We will embrace how the real needs of opposing participants can be met. We will shift from a market share environment to a mind-share mentality. Collaboration will rule the roost and overtake information delivery as the primary conference experience.

What other trends do you think conferences should adopt now? What trends have become fads that have out-lived their time?

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  1. Being a speaker myself I see the shift to meetings versus conferences. I understand meetings as events where participants get some basic information in case they are not very knowledgable about the subject, but the real value is provided as workshops / panels where participants can develop their own understanding / oppinion.
    Being on the information delivery side, I am more involved when I need to design the interactive session or make the audience the part of the event.
    When you think about your events consider the folllowing ideas:
    1. Run some informational sessions / panels on the first day / first part of the day and ask participants to sign up to run something more interactive. If they know it in advance, they should manage for they will definitely have some knowledge about the conference theme.
    2. 2. Hint the speakers and facilitators to ask questions and throw them at the audience. There are people who can reply with something interesting.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Hi Pawel:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. What you say about shift from conferences to meetings puzzles me. In North America, there is not a standardized difference between the two.

      Also, the big question speakers need to ask before they present is, “Do they want their audience to hear the content or learn the content?” If it’s the later, they cannot continue to do a information delivery presentation because the audience does not learn it. There are limits to your cognitive load and audiences cannot learn from a speech unless they are allowed time to think during the presentation. Throwing a question to the audience is a step in the right direction. When you allow every body in the room a chance to answer that question–by writing down their thoughts and sharing them with their neighbor–then you have real engagement.

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