Excuse the silence this last week – I’ve been busy delivering Like Minds Conference this week in Exeter, where we had 200 people from across England, Europe and even a handful from further afield, convergence over 2 days on the topic of “Creativity+Curation.” Man, even this line sounds like another one of those PR line’s I’ve written dozens of in the last weeks!
Most of you know that I run Like Minds along with Andrew Ellis. It’s actually the place where the majority of the discussion on this blog finds it’s actualisation – putting the ideas and insights shared here into practice at our Conference and also our community building.
This last one was exceptional. It superseded our event in February in every way (which was the best event I’d ever run and went down very well), but the biggest success was that this event was a HUGE risk on a few fronts. I actually, on the first day when I opened the conference, listed these.
1. There were no superstars. Considering my post on “Why Social Events Aren’t Social“, I had to swallow my own medicine and not allow ego to slip in. This was risky because a large number of people go to events for names.
2. It was about learning, not buzz. Our previous events were very buzzy, so to then opt for a format which I knew would create less buzz, but deliver more lasting learning through immersive learning experiences was also risky because it meant fewer people talking about us and therefore buying tickets or participating online.
3. Two days means three days out of the office. Given that we expanded it to two days, this meant a day of travelling on the Wednesday too and that meant fewer people might come because, lets face it, so many still are bound to their 9-5, bill by the hour mentality, rather than billing for value.
But what happened over those three days was just phenomenal. Come the end of Friday afternoon, I could stand up and list these:
1. There were superstars – THE PEOPLE. Turns out that people really think highly of Like Minds, which is incredibly humbling, and our past events have done a good job for forming a strong culture that meant each person added such life to the event. For instance, Stephen Bateman, who I’m pictured with, travelled over 3,000 from America to join us. That is humbling. And what you can’t see is that behind the camera is 200 people clapping at his contribution.
2. People want to learn and meet new people more than get buzzed up or hang on the words of gurus. People SERIOUSLY got into the learning spirit of things, and all day you could see that our new format of Immersive workshops, Lunch Time Talks, and then keynotes in the afternoon meant people got far, far, far more value that they would’ve previously.
3. Our advocates made the time. Only a third of the people who came booked one day. Two thirds came for the whole two days, plus the two evening events, and they saw it as a major investment. Unfortunately, we had far fewer local people this time, which personally insults me because they were the ones who wanted it to be more practical this time (which we did). Makes me think of Jesus who said “no prophet is without honour, except in his home country” – in other words, you’ll get support from everyone but those who benefit the most from you locally. I need to find a way to crack this.
Events must shift their focus and let attendees be participants. I learnt a lot of things this week, which we’ll discuss in the weeks to come, but the top learning for me is that people really are now tired of the weary conference scene. There must be more than just innovation – there needs to be a revolution, a reformation, a re-evaluation of events – without which, I fear many will die. People want learning, they don’t want ego anymore.
As Robin Dickinson wrote almost a year ago that “Room-filling [is the] last thing a post-Internet leader does“. We must take note.
But the biggest thing? It was the like minds in the room that made it. I fully confess that even on Wednesday night, I still wasn’t sure how it was going to go with our new format. It just goes to show, like I say, that Like Minds is the Like Minds, not Andrew and myself.
Your Leading Thoughts
- If you participated in Like Minds, either physically or virtually, what was your top takeaway? Did you appreciate the risk and did you benefit from the results?
- As we’re all ones on the inside of these changes from attendance to participation and watching to learning, what do these comments mean for you? What are you thinking about participation right now?
Fantastic photo by the incredible Harry Duns