Conferences During Hinge Times


We are living in a world of hinge time.

Our conferences are planned to educate attendees for an era that no longer exists. The challenges our attendees face are vastly different from the ones of the past.

Most of our conference attendees were educated on how to be right. We focus on individual and collective attention on deficits—cognitive, emotional, financial and industry-related says says author Dawna Markova. Rarely have we been taught how to collaborate effectively with people across cultures, time zones and temperaments. Thus hinge time.

Authentic Transformative Conversations

PCMA and Marriott International recently released five emerging trends that meetings must address in the next three to five years. One of those trends, Tribalization: Cultivate kinships to elevate outcomes, discusses the need for collaboration through conversations.

In order for fearless, transformative conversations to occur, conference organizers must plan for and facilitate experiences that move conversations from power over others to power with others. According to Judith E. Glasner there are three levels of conversations

  • Level 1: Transactional – delivery and exchange of information and data (where most conference experiences occur).
  • Level 2: Positional – power and influence of our beliefs through conversations; taking a position or stand.
  • Level 3: Transformational – moving to collaboration and co-creation of our mutually shared futures.

Most conference experiences are stuck in delivery of information. They are purely transactional, one-way experiences from the expert or speaker to the audience. Yet attendees are looking for transformational experiences.

Today’s effective conference organizers secure facilitators that can guide audiences through these three conversation levels to collaboration and co-creation. The focus is on mind-sharing collaboration.

Shifting Conference Experiences To Mind-Share Collaboration

Most attendees come to conferences with a market-share economy mindset. They are used to dealing with analytic and procedural problems that require rational solutions as Markova addresses.

In the market-share way of thinking, value is determined by shortage—I have and you don’t. Objects are valued according to scarcity. We solve problems by asking our minds to think practically, analytically and procedurally.

However, we are entering a mind-share collaborative world. We no longer just deal with analytic and procedural problems that require rational solutions. We need to think together in ways that are innovative and relational.

We need to embrace mind-share mentality where wealth is created and carried by ideas and relationships more than transactions. When ideas carry value, everything is turned upside down. When you have a good idea and I have a good idea and we exchange them we both walk away with two good ideas. The more we share, the more we have.

Today’s effective conference organizers know they must secure excellent facilitators that can help them design experiences that guide audiences through collaborative mind-sharing of ideas. And sometimes this goes against our like-minded tribes of comfort.

In the successful conferences of today, audiences that are most flexible in their thinking, have the most influence. We can’t solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s ways of thinking as Daniel Pink addresses in A Whole New Mind.

What do conference organizers need in order to create conference experiences that address collaboration and co-creation? How is our North American mindset getting in our way of authentic collaborative and relational experiences?

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  1. Tricia Maddrey Baker says:

    Brilliant summary of the approach required for today’s challenging participants. No longer “audiences,” today’s attendees have expectations which include making them reflect and collaborate in order to learn. Thanks for posting this blog!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:


      Love your comment that today’s conference participants are no longer audiences! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. As North Americans, we have to contend with our heritage of “rugged individualism,” competitive drive, and hierarchical mindset. We have to get over it somehow feeling like something is less of an accomplishment if results from a collaboration rather than something an individual did all on their own, that we’re only as good as the number of people we pass on the way up, and that everyone has to work within their own little box of roles/talents/abilities (because no one else can completely comprehend what we do, of course, so how could we possibly work with them?) instead of reaching across the aisle (whatever that aisle might be–I’m still under the influence of last night’s State of the Union address) to get something done. This is all pretty deeply ingrained in our culture, but I think conferences are the perfect place to start breaking down that cultural baggage to meet the demands of our changing reality.

    Oops, apologies for what may be one of the longest run-on sentences I’ve committed in a while!

  3. Marc McQuaid says:

    How often have your heard a comment like this? “The keynote speaker was amazing and I attended many really good breakout sessions, but the best part of the conference was having the ability to share ideas with peers in-between sessions or at the hotel bar.”

    I have seen many great collaborations get their start with a little scribbling on a cocktail napkin. Brief productive encounters like this result in friendships being built, business cards getting exchanged, and the new-found ability to conquer challenges in fresh new ways.

    What do conference organizers need in order to create conference experiences that address collaboration and co-creation? Maybe a new sponsored mixer with conversation starters on pre-printed cocktail napkins!

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