3 New Ways to Think About Professional Events — That All Start with ‘I’

Author: Don Neal       

Don Neal

It has long been understood that most business or professional conferences and trade shows have been about the 3 C’s: content, commerce, and community. These three legs of the stool for big, national events made sense. First, we aggregate an array of education and programming known as content. Next, we host a football-field-sized trade show with booths and let attendees/“shoppers” wander, looking for the right company that has what they’re looking for. And last, we’ve seen it as our job to bring a community of like-minded people together in the hope that the right people would find each other and build or renew a professional relationship.

We’ve always thought this was an efficient value proposition. However, the changing expectations of audiences across every generation, fantastic new technology, and a myriad of alternatives for each of the 3 C’s are making this model inefficient. It must be reimagined.

As what, you say? If the 3 C’s aren’t the foundation of professional events anymore, what is? Consider the 3 I’s – Insight, Intentionality, and Intimacy.

Insight We don’t need to attend a live conference to consume more content, data, or traditional education — we can get that on any screen. What we need is insight, implications, and practical solutions to the challenges we face. We need a live human being to make sense of things, and others in the room to weigh in. We want and need insight.

Intentionality Add another “I” to the mix: At least half of us are introverts. Can you think of a more stressful environment than an overwhelming event with the expectation that you are supposed to meet, greet, socialize, connect, and network your way to the right people? Receptions for first-timers, emerging professionals, and any other sub-group of people don’t cut it, especially when they’re accustomed to social networks like LinkedIn and dating platforms like Match.com where they can easily make the first move and quickly connect. That’s efficiency — not trying to work a room or meet someone in a large educational session.

Intentionality is what we all want when meeting new people. There are so many new ways to be intentional about helping the people at your events to connect with each other.

Intimacy Communities are big. We want small, intimate, and personal environments to learn, do business, and meet new people. Sure, convention centers and large hotels are necessary to accommodate the mass of people that will attend your event, but it doesn’t have to feel so impersonal, cold, massive, and imposing. Again, there are so many good ideas for making the big small and the cold warm.

So think about a new approach to designing your next experience through the lens of the three I’s. Ideas and fresh examples seem to pop up all around you when you look through a new lens. As Wayne Dyer said: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

What can you look at differently, and how might it change? Shoot your ideas on Twitter to @360LiveMedia.