On November 7th
, I was fortunate to attend BinderCon
, a two day writing conference produced by Out of the Binders, Inc., a non-profit organization devoted to increasing diversity in the media and literary arts by amplifying the voices of women and gender non-conforming writers. With this, their third event since launching in 2014, Out of the Binders co-founders Leigh Stein and Lux Alptraum have honed a formula for what some might consider a feminist creative utopia. Plans are currently underway for a March conference in Los Angeles, the other city currently in the BinderCon yearly roster.
As with any conference, the tone is set from the first press release announcing ticket availability. What struck me most about this particular gathering and all of its messaging was its firm commitment to creating a safe, inclusive and comfortable space for all of its attendees. The organizers made sure everyone understood the zero tolerance policy for harassment related to gender identity, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, or level of professional experience.
The practice of offering scholarships helped to broaden the economic status of the attendee body as a whole, further contributing to the event’s overall diversity. As part of the scholarship group, I felt particularly cared for during the process of planning the menu for our group’s special Saturday luncheon, a conversation that took place via group email. Everyone’s dietary needs were taken into consideration, so that we could all enjoy a meal together.
In addition to embodying a most progressive inclusion philosophy, BinderCon offered a wide variety of keynote presentations, panel discussions and workshops, on topics ranging from freelance contracts and podcasting to writing about sexuality, social justice and other political themes. Another great feature was pitch sessions with agents and publishers. These ten minute sessions were a little bit like speed dating, except instead of a love connection, you might end up with a book deal.
As an attendee who is passionate about all of this subject matter, I can tell you that taking in so much fantastic content bordered on being overwhelming. Also, many events were held in surrounding buildings (within a couple of blocks of Cooper Union, the conference’s central location), so we needed time to get from one place to the next. Fortunately, the conference organizers took this into account and scheduled plenty of space in between sessions for traveling as well as decompressing.
Put hundreds of women (and gender non-conforming) writers into one space at one time, and you’re going to generate a lot of energy. Discussions between sessions were as intense and engaging as the featured material. Friendships and associations started and professional relationships deepened, as inspiration and encouragement were shared among attendees without reservation. Conference organizers facilitated this type of important networking with a conscious effort at creating the atmosphere and the opportunity for these interactions to take place.
From a planning perspective, what is most noteworthy to me about this conference is the way every element of the event was guided by an overall philosophy. This comprehensive approach to branding goes deeper than the speaker roster, program language and graphics. It informs the dynamics of outreach and registration before the meeting, as well as attention to the needs of the community that will be developed during and after the event.
If our meetings are to serve the larger objectives of our organizations and businesses, as well as the individual needs of our attendees, then we would do well to regard the specifics of this niche gathering as a case study. The level of granularity in the planning of BinderCon offers a textbook example of how to integrate the targeted needs of our audience or community into every aspect of planning our meetings and conventions. When we do this properly, we increase the likelihood that the reach of our meetings extends well beyond their actual life span to offer tangible contributions to our long range plans.