What's Hot, What's Not: The “Future of Conferences”


Image credit: Google Search Results

At UC, we love a good bandwagon, and judging from a simple Google search, the “future of conferences” bandwagon is well and truly in motion.


Truth is, we’re not sure about this obsession with the future, when many conferences haven’t quite figured out the present. Also, most of these ‘future’ pieces focus on the form(at), which (as we regularly mention) is entirely secondary to your function.


So here are our predictions for in-person and virtual conferences that participants and sponsors will embrace, now and into the future:


WHAT'S HOT

  • Clear purpose and reason for gathering

  • Taking participants on a journey

  • Crowdsourcing, done right

  • Facilitated dialogues

  • Peer-led, structured conversations

  • Diverse, inclusive perspectives

  • Deep diving into issues

  • Immersive experiences

  • Learning by doing

  • Fun & joy

  • Actionable outcomes

  • Artefacts to reference afterwards

  • Real value in exchange for time, effort & money

  • Integrated sponsors that add to the experience of participants


WHAT'S NOT

  • Passive listening

  • Death by densely packed PowerPoint

  • Homogeneous Manels

  • Poor representation

  • Unstructured breakouts where participants are left to their own devices (literally and metaphorically)

  • Networking that delivers nothing but awkwardness

  • Only an annual touch point - it no longer cuts it

  • Dissing virtual - it’s here to stay, folks

  • Sponsorship that involves only branding


And just for fun…


WHAT’S BEYOND THE HORIZON

  • AR/VR

  • Holograms

  • Gamification

  • Basically, evolving technology that might feel silly or awkward today, but will probably be as commonplace as Zoom now is.


But what if you’ve figured out why you’re hosting a conference and the tangible outcomes you’d like to get out of it? Then your present and future already look bright.


To infinity... and beyond!


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