A New Lens for Conference Designers
It’s long been understood that most business or professional conferences and trade shows have been about the 3 C’s: content, commerce and community. These three legs of the stool for big, national events made sense. Aggregate an array of education and programming known as content. Host a football-field-size trade show with booths and let people wander, looking for the right company that had what the “shopper” was looking for. And bring a community of like-minded people together in the hope that the right people would find each other and build or renew a professional relationship.

The pitch has always been that there is an efficiency to this model. However, it doesn’t sound very efficient anymore, does it? The long list of reasons why the old conference model must be reimagined is known by most of us – changing expectations of audiences across every generation, fantastic new technology and myriad alternatives for each of the 3 C’s. These forces have been well covered by this blog and elsewhere.

So what, you say? If the 3 C’s aren’t the foundation of professional events, what is? Consider the 3 I’s – Insight, Intentionality and Intimacy. Think about it. We don’t need to attend a live conference to consume more content, data or traditional education – we can get that on any screen. What we need is insight, implications and practical solutions to the challenges we face. We need a live human being to make sense of things, and others in the room to weigh in. We want and need insight.

Consider that at least half of us are introverts. Can you think of a more stressful environment than an overwhelming event with the expectation that you are supposed to meet, greet, socialize, connect and network your way to the right people? Receptions for first-timers, emerging professionals and any other sub-group of people don’t cut it, especially when they’re accustomed to social networks like LinkedIn and dating platforms like Match.com. That’s efficiency: not trying to work a room or meet someone in a large educational session. Intentionality is what we all want when meeting new people. There are so many new ways to help the people who attend your events to connect with more intentionality.

And finally, the shift from community to intimacy. Communities are big. We want small, intimate and personal environments to learn, do business and meet new people. Sure, convention centers and large hotels are necessary to accommodate the mass of people that will attend your event, but it doesn’t have to feel so impersonal, cold, massive and imposing. Again, there are so many good ideas for making the big small and the cold warm.

So think about a new approach to designing your next experience through the lens of the 3 I’s. The ideas and fresh examples are all around you when you look through a new lens.

There’s a Wayne Dyer quote that I love: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

What can you look at differently, and how might it change?

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