Your Conference As A Giving Field

Sunflower Field ... HDR

We are used to thinking of our conference and its planning process as a one-way transaction from the company to its customers.

Sometimes we view the planning process as a backbreaking, arduous, life-draining experience. We may even dread working with a new conference advisory committee due to our negative past experiences.

If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to rethink your mental model of your conference and its planning process. Instead, consider your conference as a life-giving and soul-enhancing experience where everyone involved collaboratively contributes and receives. See your conference as a giving field and reap its new harvests.

The Traditional Transactional Conference Model

Too often we see our conferences as one-way transactions.

Customers pay to attend our event located in a distinct city on exact dates at specific times. In exchange for their money, we give them access to hand-chosen speakers that dispense their knowledge.

In short, the organization employs staff and recruits volunteers to design a transactional conference experience to promote its purpose. We are the instruments to serve their customers. We are the givers and the customers are the receivers.

Giving As A Practice And Not A Holiday Transaction

We have a choice in our service of conference planning and implementation.

We can see the planning process as a transaction of pushing our skills and expertise at conference participants. Or we can choose to see the conference planning process as multi-directional experience, receiving gifts through interactions with others. When we chose the latter, we embrace giving as a practice. And as a way to constantly evolve into something new.

A gift is not just something that we give to or for another person. It is more than a holiday transaction. Something actually happens to both the giver and receiver as they move into a relationship.

Our interactions with others can be gifts. When we approach others with gratitude, we are unsure about who is giving to who. Teachers talk about the deep gratification and child-like insights they receive from educating their students. Doctors discuss the joys they receive from a patient’s recovery.

A gift is a perfect conspiracy, meant to open us up to the possibility of becoming something new. – Warren Nilsson, co-founder of Organization Unbound

Embrace Your Event As A Giving Field

As conference professionals, we have the opportunity to re-frame our conferences from one way transactions to multi-directional giving fields.

As a giving field, our conference radiates in all directions, from each to each. There is no longer a distinction between giver and receiver. Everyone provides and benefits continuously. Everyone involved is a giver and receiver. Everyone contributes and everyone participates.

When we embrace our conference planning and implementation as a giving field, we see it as a

…beautiful, expansive space in which to play and to grow things. A place of light and color and surprise. A place where we can go to un-tame ourselves. As we enter this field, we may find ourselves provoked into acts of re-imagination that startle and delight us with unsuspected possibilities for personal growth and community renewal. – Warren Nilsson.

How can you apply the concept of a giving field to your conference? What are you curious about or fearful of embracing regarding the concept of your conference as a giving field?

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  1. Tana Paddock says:

    Wonderful! I think you’d also enjoy reading this short piece about an organization’s experience applying the giving field to conference organizing:

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’m a fan of the work you are doing at Organization Unbound. You encourage us all to be better versions of ourselves and our organizations. Thank you!

      1. Tana Paddock says:

        Ah, thanks for the appreciation : )

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