Who goes to HR conferences? HR people. Who goes to Communication conferences? Communication Directors, Managers and Heads. Who goes to Digital Something Conferences? Digital people, nerds and digital experts of some sort. Who goes to Next Big Thing Leadership World and Pan Galactic Trends conferences? People who don’t have much to do and don’t have to justify company expenses.
The tribe meets. The tribe meets in the basement of the Marriott, the Conference Centre (no day light but great chandeliers), the big Conference and Events (with Spa) hotel, and that five star resort in the mountains, exquisite place, super views from your room, bad wi-fi and breakfast included (could you believe it? Included!)
And the tribe talks. The agenda is about the new trends for the tribe, the incredibly fast changing environment, (probably as incredibly similar to last year conference), the new tools (please visit the exhibition floor) and the things that will change life forever. And there is, of course, that keynote about Blockchain (block what?) and Ethereum (Eth?). Because no conference today can ignore these. Whether the Association of Weather Forecast presenters or Rocket Science Unite, that needs to be there. (Trouble is not so much to have these in the agenda but to find a speaker who can make sense of it)
Tribe members talking to tribe members is not necessarily the greatest source of innovation and cross-fertilization. But, of course, these are not the reasons for these conferences, but the rituals. And tribes do know about rituals. They provide the glue, a sense of belonging, a reason for existence, and zero efficacy.
The ideal conference, the one that never will be, is the one when accountants talk to psychologists over a few mojitos, HR people talk to people in sales, business development, talk to engineers (more mojitos), finance people talk to HR, (endless supply to mojitos), finance talk to any other human being, Communications to finance and engineers, and many tribes are simply mixed up. Over mojitos, that is.
If you want to talk to your tribe members, by all means, do. Plenty of places. But once you have checked your sense of belonging, your tribal membership, the social life of colleagues and ex-colleagues, find a better mechanism to upgrade yourself, get skilled and informed.
The warm, cosy and safe ‘ (functional) Conference’ has a role. But, content wise and skill wise, it is unlikely to provide anything that cannot be found elsewhere, probably earlier and better described.
The ‘ideal conference’ is multi-tribe,. multi-functional, cross-worlds and mutually challenging. In the other end do the spectrum there is intellectual tourism.