In a fast-moving world, personal connections matter. Attending conferences and events is one of the best ways to make that happen.

But here’s the thing: conferences are broken.

At most conferences, the content is, at best, okay. conferences brokenIt’s likely people that you’ve already seen, whether in person or on a video. And you know as much about the topic as the people on-stage.

So why do people go to conferences? Why do they pay thousands of dollars to attend these events?

You go to meet new people, whether it’s prospects or partners or people that are in the same industry. We go to conferences to network.

But conferences do a terrible job of facilitating and encouraging new connections.

Here’s what usually happens. You usually hang out with people that you already know. You catch up and hang out but the opportunities to meet new people are few and far between.

If you’re lucky, it happens by accident or serendipitously. You’re getting a cup of coffee and somebody stands beside you. You look at their name tag and you take the initiative by saying, “Hey, my name is Mark Evans. What do you think about the conference?”

You make a connection but it’s not by design.

What if there was a better way?

What if conferences were designed to spark new relationships? What if it was easy to meet people who had similar interests or were simply interesting? That would be much much better.

Here are three ideas to consider.

#1: Tinder for conferences. Here’s how it would work: you create a profile on a conference’s app your name, title, company name, and location (city). If somebody is interested in meeting you, they swipe right. If there is a match, you could connect and figure out where and when to meet at the conference.

#2: At the conference, there is a room with tables. Each table is dedicated to a particular topic. During networking breaks, rather than leave people to their own devices, you visit this room and pick the table that meets your interests. This allows people to learn, share ideas and meet new people. Perfect.

#3: This is a bit radical: make conferences wireless free and network free.

At the Fireside conference in September, there was limited Wi-Fi and no wireless coverage. People had to talk to each other because they weren’t distracted by social media. blogging or checking their email. I spent a lot of time saying, “My name is Mark. What’s your name? Have you ever been to Fireside before?”

I like this approach because it makes you talk to people. You can’t use a smartphone as a social crutch or to escape from having conversations. It may sound like a strange approach because people want to be connected at all times.

Truth be told, we don’t need to be connected all the time. If you need to connect while attending a conference, there could be a room with Wi-Fi. But why not go smartphone-free and give yourself the freedom to talk to people and permission to be open to new conversations?

What do you think of these ideas? Do any of them resonate?


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