I have a confession...I'm a conference groupie! I have the swag bags and pens to prove it. There's nothing like geeking out with peers, experts and practitioners in your field. However, as of late I've stumbled across a few conferences that could have used a bit more "Soul"... opportunities for cross-pollination, play and reflection.
Here's a quick and dirty list for design considerations when planning a conference, symposium or the like:
- Build a "Hospitality Crew" - a team of people whose purpose is to set the mood. Create ambiance. Provide a welcoming first impression and allow participants to settle in.
- Designate a time during the conference for Open Space Technology. you'd be crazy not to harness all the brilliance in the room.
- If there's down time between sessions or during lunch, host an Open Mic! Depending on the industry, an Open Mic may be for performance or an opportunity to share a current challenge and get support from the crowd. I saw this executed beautifully at DIY Days at The New School.
- Use interactive maps to learn about who is in the room.
- Create a Wellness Space and bring practitioners in, if you can. I've seen this done well at the Allied Media Conference and at Facing Race.
- Windows! Windows! Windows!
- Serve good food. Geeking out can leave one ravenous. Nothing says "soul" better than a yummy meal or snack.
What are some other tips to make conferences more "soulful"?