Between writing The Pollyanna Principles and rolling out our Immersion Courses, the past few years have whirred by. Suddenly we realize that we cannot recall the last time we attended a conference where I wasn’t speaking!
It has been years since we last joined with others for the sheer purpose of learning and meeting people – so long ago that many of the conferences we now want to attend didn’t even exist then. And that leaves us in a bit of a quandary.
First, which conferences to choose? Second, how to get there? (Our conditional tax-exemption as we file for official status is not appealing to funders who, as we all know, prefer certainty. Which makes creativity in funding things like conference attendance a must during this phase!)
So we thought we would come to you for both those questions. Which conferences should we consider attending this year? And what creative ways have you seen organizations fund their own learning and intellectual growth?
So Many Conferences, So Little Time…
As we consider which conferences to attend, here are some of the criteria we’re factoring in:
• Stimulating theme, with stimulating presenters – folks from whom we would want to absorb everything they know and simply be in their presence.
• Not an overwhelming number of attendees. I’m not sure how much we could get to know folks if a conference has 5,000 or more attendees. (If your experience has been different, please let us know – this may just be our own bias…)
• The crowd will be creative thinkers, intellectually curious. We want to learn as much from the participants as the presenters.
• The fewer “panel discussions” the better. I cannot recall the last time a panel discussion was worth the time it took up – even ones I have participated in. The only way I can see a panel discussion being a brilliant use of time would be to introduce various approaches to a topic, where we could then learn more in depth from each of the presenters in individual workshops. A panel as an invitation to learn more that very day would be great (Can’t recall that I’ve ever seen that happen, but I’m putting it out to the conference-planners’ universe…)
• While some unstructured unconference time is great, we want more time in brilliant workshop settings, learning from people with immense knowledge about intriguing, mind-bending subjects. Between our office and our online discussions, our own immersion courses and the facilitations we do with groups, we get more than our share of time to explore in completely unstructured settings. What we are seeking from a conference is exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking from people who are brilliant in their field.
• We’re not looking for lots of how-to tips. If a workshop leader tells me, “If all you take from this session is 2 or 3 things you can put into practice, I’ll have done my job…” then that’s not the session for us. We want our heads to be exploding with new ideas, new ways of seeing things, new connections (both interpersonal and intellectual connections).
Yeah, I know – we’re setting the bar high. As my friend Ray Nichols reminds me, we do that a lot around here…
Given these criteria, what conferences would you suggest? Some have suggested Independent Sector’s conference. Some have suggested the ARNOVA conference. Some have suggested Bioneers. And of course if we had the funds, TED…
One conference has been calling to us since we heard of it last year. And that is the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in February. (We even re-scheduled our February immersion course to be able to attend!)
The Wisdom 2.0 Conference brings together people from a variety of disciplines – technology leaders, Zen teachers, neuroscientists, academics and others – to explore how we can live with deeper meaning and wisdom in our technology-rich age.
Following two days of standard break-out format, there is a day of unconference. Given what we will be learning and exploring and absorbing during the conference itself, this is an unstructured environment that we will relish (everything I said above not withstanding…)
This leaves us with the 2 questions we noted above.
1) What other conferences should we be thinking about attending in the next 12 months?
2) What creative ways have you found to fund attending conferences / educational forums like these?
Looking forward to your favorites and your ideas!!