Conferences shape both individuals and our society. Most professional adults can recall conferences where they learned something that changed their life. Or where they met someone that had profound impact on their career.
The conference is a unique form of knowledge production, sharing and interaction. Every year about a million conferences take place in the world, involving hundreds of millions of people and billions of knowledge items. In our increasingly complex society conferences have become an irreplaceable source for providing lifelong learning for the professional looking to constantly upgrade and to extend her network.
No matter how globalized, networked and digitized the world becomes there will always be something special about gathering hundreds of enthusiasts under the same roof to explore a common theme. In the US alone the Meetings Industry has a greater GDP contribution than auto manufacturing, with a total economic activity of $ 907 billion every year.
The global financial and cultural impact of conferences is a daunting demonstration of the knowledge economy at work.
10 areas where we can improve the conference
Yet when it comes to ushering the conference firmly into the digital era a lot could be improved. Not because conferences are poorly conceived or organized, but simply because the right formula for proper application of the social and semantic web hasn’t been developed yet:
1. Searching online for conferences is flawed. Only more so if you try to filter results according to location, interest, language and time. It’s an entire category of life where search has failed.
2. At this very moment you’re probably missing out on a great conference somewhere and you don’t even know. We need better systems to actively keep us in the loop. Rather than searching for conferences the relevant conferences should find us.
3. Most conference websites makes us feel like it’s 1999, and yet it’s never been easier creating great user experiences online. How do we bridge this apparent gap between organizers and technology?
4. With less time and money available to the average employee it means we’re often forced to pass on conferences we actually want to attend. But how can we effectively take part in a conference without being there? With advances in remote connectedness this should be possible today.
5. It’s too hard getting access to the knowledge produced and presented at a conference. You’ll find bits and pieces scattered around the web, on social networks, in inboxes and on hard drives. But where do you get the full picture and find what you’re actually looking for?
6. In our educated culture the probability of a single person knowing more than his crowd of 200 is becoming smaller every day. How can we use technology to harvest the collective wisdom of all the wonderful minds attending your next conference?
7. Today you usually don’t know who’s going to a conference until you’re actually there. And after the conference you often fail to reconnect with someone you met. Surely there must be a better way.
8. To many people it can be difficult to just walk up to strangers and start talking. Why can’t we have a system in place where we can start conversations before a conference, then continue at the conference and even after it’s ended?
9. Even when we’re physically present a part of our attention is constantly devoted to our life online. How do we turn this into a good thing in the conference space? And how do we create meaning in the digital noise that often seem to cloud the conditions for deep learning?
10. When is a conference successful? How do we measure the true impact of a conference, both for organizers, speakers, venues and attendees? For every dollar spent on a conference we ought to know the net return.
Join us to reinvent conferences
The conference is an old industry, fragmented on almost every imaginable level: location, industry, language and time. Not unlike many other traditional industries it needs innovation to come from outside and in.
Let’s reinvent conferences together. Please join Conferize.
The Conferize Manifesto v 1.0
by Martin Ferro-Thomsen, June 2011