Conference Dichotomy Issues



  • Something that I've seen happen heavily at very social conferences is what I'll call conference dichotomy. What I mean is that there seems to be a tendency, for mostly natural reasons, for a conference to split into groups or cliques. The ones I am mostly concerned about (at this moment) are the "social and old timers" and the "non-social and newbies who don't know anyone."

    The first year of a conference I expect that the effect is small, as time goes by the effect grows. Some conferences are not likely to engender this too strongly, mostly because the conferences are huge, well publicized, incredibly general or open, or whatever. Others this is very strong, maybe because they are small, maybe because they are tied to online communities that create some of the relationships before the conference takes place and encourages people to stay in contact between conferences or whatever.

    There is no way to simply make this not happen, but it is a real concern that a conference can become polarized with one group being highly social and knowing each other and another group feeling alone and outcast. The value to one group will be very different than the value to the other. Addressing this is important.

    What is important is that the newbies be on a path towards integration into the long term, social group. It should not be one group remains isolated and the other "churns and burns", which is a big risk. You want newcomers to feel welcome and not isolated so that they want to become a part of the social group and see a clear path to achieving this. Then it becomes a pipeline to a great growth opportunity.



  • Having a session on "getting social in IT" could be a good start. Stuff mentioned in the Keynote. Things to teach IT pros how to engage with each other would be very good.



  • Talking to the "social group" about the needs to be inclusive is also a good start. Get people on board with how to help newbies, where to direct them and whatnot will help a lot.



  • I think part of that is having organizers who are truly involved with the community it's self and really know people. I am not sure how anyone would deal with a huge community and make sure all able to connect but for us here we are small enough that it should be pretty easy ....



  • Having smaller breakout sessions where people are more or less forced to work/talk to one another could be helpful in this as well.



  • Maybe a special "meet and greet" session where special introductions are made or assigned first night dinner tables with newbies mixed in with old timers.



  • A bit of a buddy system where an old timer is a bit of a "conference social mentor" for a newbie would be cool. Like a big brother big sister program.



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    Maybe a special "meet and greet" session where special introductions are made or assigned first night dinner tables with newbies mixed in with old timers.

    I was thinking of some way to make small group talk, get to know each other.. I like the dinner table idea.



  • I recently attended a retreat where they did some interesting events around meeting other people. This stuff was pretty extreme to be doing at a conference, but it might give some ideas. One of the great things that we did was get assigned to small "teams" and those teams would do things like have a shared "story time" where people would tell stories about themselves as a way to get to know each other. It worked great.



  • I like the idea of a 'getting social' session aimed at newbies.



  • That might be painful to a true introvert and scare them off. But the buddy system and dinner table thing is a good idea. Maybe with these done ahead of time with a bit of this is who you will be meeting and a quick bio email before hand to make the initial meetup less stressful.



  • I think really good badges could help. Clear names, usernames, avatars, location information, "scan me to contact me" QR codes and company info could go a long way.



  • Really well organized social time could help too. You want lots of time with drinks, snacks and low volume background noise where people can meet up, talk and get to know each other. The Scale boat cruise was excellent for that.



  • Yes a good badge is a must!



  • Too much noise all the time gets to be WAY too much for people.



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    Really well organized social time could help too. You want lots of time with drinks, snacks and low volume background noise where people can meet up, talk and get to know each other. The Scale boat cruise was excellent for that.

    While that's true, I only ended up talking to people I already knew. To make the Scale boat thing better, there should be assigned tables for at least 2 hours to 'help' the mingling.



  • @Minion-Queen said:

    Too much noise all the time gets to be WAY too much for people.

    I agree, I find it exhausting; also combines with having to shout all day to make myself heard. Let alone trying to hear other people heheh



  • @Minion-Queen said:

    Yes a good badge is a must!

    The QR code Scott mentioned could be awesome - something that the attendees can use. I can scan your badge to get your contact information. Possibly better than a business card.



  • Much better than a business card.



  • You could possibly allow someone to put in a super short BIO, weblink, etc..



  • @Dashrender said:

    @Minion-Queen said:

    Yes a good badge is a must!

    The QR code Scott mentioned could be awesome - something that the attendees can use. I can scan your badge to get your contact information. Possibly better than a business card.

    Make sure to offer a good app for all of the phone types, you don't want people fumbling around with some BS app.



  • @Minion-Queen said:

    Too much noise all the time gets to be WAY too much for people.

    DJs in the hallways would be a disaster, for example.



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    I recently attended a retreat where they did some interesting events around meeting other people. This stuff was pretty extreme to be doing at a conference, but it might give some ideas. One of the great things that we did was get assigned to small "teams" and those teams would do things like have a shared "story time" where people would tell stories about themselves as a way to get to know each other. It worked great.

    This is literally my nightmare.



  • I really like the idea of a "forced" mingle. Being generally introverted and totally okay doing my own thing lends itself not to get involved.

    During SW I constantly forced myself to be around people "in the know" and was able then to feel like less an outsider, making this a core part of the events going on (social gatherings) would make it even easier for those of us who don't do as well forcing ourselves to interact.



  • @Dashrender said:

    @scottalanmiller said:

    Really well organized social time could help too. You want lots of time with drinks, snacks and low volume background noise where people can meet up, talk and get to know each other. The Scale boat cruise was excellent for that.

    While that's true, I only ended up talking to people I already knew. To make the Scale boat thing better, there should be assigned tables for at least 2 hours to 'help' the mingling.

    Well that was at the end of that conference too, people looking to meet people needed to do it before then. Meeting new people is critical, but so is talking to the people you are there to see, that you are catching up with or whatever. Meeting new people needs to be early on and done with so that people can move on with their conversations.



  • @coliver said:

    @scottalanmiller said:

    I recently attended a retreat where they did some interesting events around meeting other people. This stuff was pretty extreme to be doing at a conference, but it might give some ideas. One of the great things that we did was get assigned to small "teams" and those teams would do things like have a shared "story time" where people would tell stories about themselves as a way to get to know each other. It worked great.

    This is literally my nightmare.

    Sounds scary but it was actually awesome.



  • The forced mingling thing would be good for a few hours... but after that I would be mentally exhausted.



  • @coliver said:

    The forced mingling thing would be good for a few hours... but after that I would be mentally exhausted.

    Only need a little bit.



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    @coliver said:

    The forced mingling thing would be good for a few hours... but after that I would be mentally exhausted.

    Only need a little bit.

    Right, I was trying to insinuate that it should be toward the end of the day or the end of the day... otherwise I wouldn't make it much more then 1-2 more hours.

    I've been to the forced mingling thing at a few places I've worked generally people do it around lunch which results in me being basically useless for the rest of the day.



  • Also, I think that organized evening events and ones that encourage, rather than blocking, socialization are important. Newbies can't be out of the loop or they feel hurt when they don't get invited to something - it feels like a secret club. You want something going on for them to attend all of the time, around the clock. Get up early? Go find the early morning yoga class or an early morning informal session or discussion group. Have live screens or live info page available for phones that tells people what is going on "right now" so that they can always find something to do whether it is a big event or a little side thing.

    Or if you stay up super late, have a bar event that you know how to get there and know that you are invited. Events should go as late as anyone could possibly be awake. Never leave people off on their own wondering where to go.


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