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The “festivalisation” of conferences

Mention the word festival in conjunction with a conversation about a “serious” conference and the reaction is usually negative, immediately conjuring up thoughts of scantily clad groupies atop shoulders swaying to excessively loud music.

But it can also mean something very different.

If you look into the definition of what a festival is, it’s not altogether different from that of a conference. According to Wikipedia: “A festival is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community”.

To us, that sounds a lot like what the purpose of a conference should be – bringing a community together and focusing on a set of issues that binds them together.

Admittedly, the word “celebration” is where the problem lies, but as we’ve discussed in our

recent post, we don’t see the need to shy away from injecting some fun and humour into a conference, where appropriate.

So what might a “celebration” in the context of a conference look like? It could be simple format tweaks that set up moments for more informal conversations amongst peers as part of the programme, through to formal recognition of certain participants and their contribution to a community, in the form of awards.

It’s also about removing barriers that might otherwise prevent a gathering of people with a common interest from realising the benefits of being together in a room. Removing job titles from badges, encouraging a more casual dress code, playing a version of (age-appropriate and culturally sensitive) musical chairs after each break in the proceedings or ice-breaker exercises are all examples of what could help turn just another conference into a truly engaging and inspiring gathering of a tribe!

- Team UC

Let's inspire your community


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