Creating A People-To-People Conference

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One of the greatest challenges that we face is to deliver on our ideas. On Saturday I asked the question on Twitter, “When it comes to ideas, what’s important? Making them accessible? Uniting people to ideas? Making ideas happen? Having lots, or a few?” The resounding response was “making ideas happens”.

The challenge that the Like Minds team faced this year was to make the idea of ‘people-to-people‘ happen, rather than letting those ideas become ideals that are never actualised.

People-to-people is a world where action is more important than accolades. It means that teams working on projects consist of individuals from different companies and across the divides of supplier, consumer, customer, B2B and B2C. Like Minds as an example has no employees. It’s team members span from myself and Drew Ellis as founders, to our partners, our speakers, and right into the rich depth of the hundreds of attendees and thousands of participants across the world. That’s our team.

So it makes sense that to create a conference like this, we needed to remove many of the barriers that exist in 1950′s conferencing model of ‘I talk, you listen.’ We had to mimic this idea of teams across the divides.

So, we created three levels inside People-to-People at Like Minds:

1. Person-to-People

Barcamps and unconferences work – in my opinion – where there is a standard level of expertise or understanding in the room. This is required to self-curate and self-moderate the day, as I observed at Amplified’s 1pound40 last November. When there isn’t a standard level of expertise or understanding, then we need someone to educate so that those who have little understanding can learn. Otherwise, they miss out.

Hence our keynotes are person-to-people. One person talking, inspiring, and helping lots of people, for 20 minutes. I guess quite like TED.

This is also where we have our Like Minded Endeavours slots, whereby 5 minutes is given to a charity or cause to provoke people to action and support their work.

2. Persons-to-People

This is where panels and Q+A come in. They are a few people speaking on behalf of or speaking to the many. This is important because it provides greater variance of experience than person-to-people. A keynote speaker should really address a more narrow subject in 20 minutes in order to provide a nice slice of depth. The panel that follows opens up the ideas and brings a range of views and applications.

Up until now, we haven’t really been too innovative, hence:

3. People-to-People

To get people talking to people, one on one, and in groups, takes something special. You can’t have ‘open networking time’, because people go into their usual hubs, and those who are confident enough branch out. We also find that the speakers get swamped by the hungry networkers.

Our way of solving this was two fold: first, we tried to encourage people to start talking to people before the conference. In our minds, the Conference is the final touch point in a range of touch points leading up to the day. So we had interviews, arranged our speakers to be on hand to talk at set times, and pushed our hashtag to the community.

Our second way of doing this is with Like Minds Lunches. It’s one thing for people to wax lyrical about a flat Social Media world, but another to sit that person down in front of 10 strangers. Well, that’s what we decided to do. We have most of our speakers now holding a lunch time conversation in a local restaurant that anyone can go to (until the spaces for that lunch are booked.)

This Lunchtime Talk is where people can really build depth with people. This is where, regardless of being a speaker or attendee, you can bring your ideas to the discussion and engage the others there.

You’re part of the team at that lunch table.

Accessibility into Actions

Our primary goal with Like Minds is to provide accessibility – to people, to ideas, to resources. But this accessibility is not so people can go and create more content to fill more blogs – it is in order to create actions.

Accessibility and actions are two central pillars to People-to-People.

QUESTION: How can we make things more accessible? And how can we help people act on what they access?

Archived Comments

  • People-to-people, Accessibility and the Like Minds Lunches.

    For me the Like Minds event is beginning to symbolise the education of the growing complexities and importance of social media. The sole purpose of attending is to soak up (person/persons/people-to-people), all the useful information with a view to debating, adapting and applying what I learn into new working practices and those of my clients.

    I’m not the first person to say that the Like Minds lunches are a great idea. The only unfortunate fact is that places are limited, so not immediately accessible to everyone. Sure this isn’t logistically possible, but will there be, have you thought of, building a coherent central resource where attendees can share and pickup on the many ideas/discussions generated across the whole event (including content from each lunch session)? A transparent hub everyone can learn from and of course participate in as more ideas and ‘conversations’ continue post Like Minds, instead of valuable dialogue privately floating off somewhere in the Twitterverse™.

    Well that’s my 5 pence for the morning… I better do some work :o )

  • Scott Gould

    Phil, thanks for the thoughts. You’re clearly hitting on ‘accessibility into actions’, and my priority certainly is that we ACT on what we get at Like Minds.

    A hub, a continuation of thought and talk – these are things that need the community to help create. I’ll have a think. Even then, though, having all our stuff online doesn’t help people integrate it. I need a way to help people put things into action and make then happen.

  • Scott – I was moved to post after reading your recent article about how social media events aren’t social, but I think this is the appropriate place to post.

    I like how you think. I’m a slow thinker, but for the last 18 years I’ve been working on an approach to conference design that answers many of the issues you raise. During this time I’ve been an amateur events organizer, creating events around whatever field I was working in at the time. My core goal has always been to create the best possible event for each person who attends.

    A few years ago, after a few thousand people had enjoyed my conferences, I felt I had something of value to share, so I decided to write about how what I’ve discovered works.

    Some of the resulting features: participant-driven; ground rules that encourage attendees to safely interact beyond their normal comfort zone; opening sessions that uncover the themes and ideas participants want; session topics, themes and formats chosen by participants; and closing sessions that allow attendees to personally and collectively integrate what has happened at the event and plan for the future.

    I think the hardest thing to work out in event design is the right type and combination of top-down and bottom-up process. I’m a member of the “just-enough-top-down” school.

    My book Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love describes the why and how of all this, and was published in November. If you read it, I’d love to hear what you think.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hi Adrian,

    Thank you so much for coming by – I’ll order your book now. It seems you’ve run a good race thus far and there’ll be much I can learn.

    Do you have a website / Twitter / etc?

    Scott

  • Thanks Scott! http://www.conferencesthatwork.com has more info about the book, peer conferences, and my blog. Twitter: ASegar. There’s a Conferences That Work group on LinkedIn too.

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