Conferencing for collaboration: really?

Despite the rise in unconferencing and other creative approaches to large group gatherings, the traditional ways of engaging prevail.

Instinctively we know the value of bringing people together around a common interest. This is why, despite tough economic conditions and time scarcity, we continue to convene large groups within organisations and communities and there remains a growing conferencing market.

Most conferences promise outcomes like:

  • Sharing points of view and ideas
  • Learning together
  • Creating something new
  • Networking and connections

However, the only aspect of working in large groups that seems to be consistently achieved is the sharing of views. Even the promise of networking is often left to chance – who you meet at the coffee station, in the queue to the loo, or in the excruciating icebreaker exercises!

Our experience of most conferences is that they just don’t deliver on their promises and we’re left wondering why the disparity still so often exists between the declared outcomes and the actual value delivered in these events?

We believe the issue is with the design. We know that, with the appropriate mindset and skillset, it IS possible to deliver all these outcomes! Conference organisers have a fantastic opportunity to create a whole different experience.

So, the question remains, why isn’t it happening?

One reason might be that the skills to design and facilitate large groups working together, genuinely connecting and collaborating, remains within a small niche of consultants and there seems to be a misconception about what it takes to do it and to do it well.

This is a shame because, as our instincts tell us and the ongoing demand for conferencing confirms, large groups still need to gather in all kinds of situations – both business and societal – to connect, learn together and develop creative solutions to complex challenges.