Being part of something.
Something that matters

successful conference makes the audience feel something is happening that matters, and that they are part of it." When Felix Rundel, program manager of the Falling Walls Conference, at the ITB MICE Forum projected this statement by Monique van Dusseldorp to the wall, people started pulling out their smartphones to take a photo of this striking statement. Me included. Why? Because van Dusseldorp put in a nutshell the reasons why people in our times of digitalization, of divided worlds and societies still or even increasingly attend meetings: they want to be part of something, something that counts. At the Falling Walls Conference, attendees imported their topics in context with a main theme defining the purpose of the conference for the community. And all that at eye level and without any constraints.

Delegates will attend conferences only if they are significant to them, only then will they stay, only then will they return. They all need to feel as part of the event, they need to feel that their contribution matters. For organizers, this means that they must open up. However, all too often management or executive boards design the agenda or sequence of events with an emphasis on making sure that nothing goes wrong. As co-organizer of the 'She Means Business' conference, I can understand that planner's attitude of trying to cover all eventualities. But it's precisely those unanticipated and true moments that put us in touch with each other, where we can be ourselves. Here's when we get to know and understand each other, where we establish a sense of community.

This is becoming increasingly more important with each new conference, each new event or festival. Successful formats are based on communities or are instrumental in growing such. "It's a matter of building confidence and trust," said Philipp Westermeyer, founder of Online Marketing Rockstars. He knows well that organic development and growth is important and cannot be bought at a price. "It takes a lot of patience and staying power." When asked about his secret of success, his answer was in line with the response by re:publica co-founder Andreas Gebhard at the Mexcon 2016: "Stage a conference you would want to attend yourself!" How would a conference have to look to give you the feeling it matters? Something you want to be part of? Send me your opinion or tell me about it.
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