I’m investigating the future of f2f conferences. Will conferences be disrupted à la newspaper business? Will successful events become communities instead of one-shot deals? What’s the future for L&D conferences, say five years out? How can we make conferences more effective?
First of all, Why do people attend conferences?
Participants attend conferences to network and to learn. Specifically, they attend to:
- Meet face-to-face with peers
- Gather information about products, techniques, trends
- Develop in their careers, see and be seen
- Get the latest news, find out what’s hot and what’s not
- Learn techniques and practices to apply back home
- Socialize with members of their profession
- Find out about new products, kick the tires, hear from vendors
- Learn the basics of L&D from experts
- Attend workshops and be certified
- Get out of the office day-to-day scramble, retreat, break routine
- Expose mind to new ideas from other fields
- Add people to personal and problem-solving networks
- Build reputation in the industry (speaking, presenting papers)
- Represent one’s company as a leader
- Pick up an award for performance for your company or product
- Hunt for a job, add potential hirers and hiring companies to personal network
- Renew acquaintances with old friends, refresh the Rolodex
- Learn a particular skill to apply back home
- Corporate has already picked up the bill; it’s a free-ride, time off
- Form opinions on Big Data, informal learning, LMS, Open API, MOOCs, and other buzz-topics
- Basic foundation skills for those new to the field: ROI, design, media
- Earn a Certificate to put on the wall
- Peruse recent books, meet authors, buy trade books
- Prestige of being the employer’s representative
- Another “Badge”
- Drink with pals
- Be treated by exhibitors
- Gossip about vendors and peers
- Free drinks and h’ors d’oeuvres
- Chance to brag about accomplishments
- Find solutions to problems
- Set benchmarks, compare employer to others
- Introduce new products and concepts, e.g. The Experience API
- Allay fears of missing out
- Visit exciting cities like New Orleans, San Francisco, and (for some) DisneyWorld
- Meet with vendors, see demos, compare products
- Have fun!
What have I missed? Why do you attend conferences?
As with learning, conference-going is a much different experience for an experienced participant than for a newbie. The newbie will be enthralled to hear to likes of Ken Blanchard and Bob Pike. They’re inspiring speakers with great foundational messages. The veteran has heard it all before, perhaps from those same guys, and hangs out in the hallways, not the breakout rooms.
My gut tells me people attend conferences for Learning, Networking, Career Development, and Socializing. These activities blur into one another. The unifying theme is learning, the participant learning how to improve performance and fulfillment on the job.
Related: my Scoop on the future of conferences.