Speaking at Switch Conference on The Future of Conferences [@switchconf]

April 11, 2011

in Conference

Next April 16-17 the second edition of the Switch Conference (web, twitter, facebook) will take place in Oporto, Portugal. Founded by a group of young entrepreneurs, including the host Ricardo Sousa (linkedin, twitter), this 2-day event main theme is to “Embrace Change” and Switch aims to promote knowledge and idea sharing in a networking friendly environment, exposing the attendees with realities they don’t know and inspire them to do better everyday.

Switch 2011 has a very attractive roster of both international and local speakers (I’m particularly looking forward to Ji Lee’s keynote -> watch this video of Ji at the 99% Conference if you don’t know him).

I’ll be speaking about “The Future of Conferences”, a topic connected to my daily professional life and the core of this website.

Your input about The Future of Conferences

I’m currently working on my presentation and I would like to have your input about what is the key feature (big or small) that will shape the future of conferences. Please add it to the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #futureconf

Let’s meet

If you’re attending Switch, drop me a line or tweet so that we can meet.

Tickets for Switch Conference

I hear that some tickets are still available -> get yours now!

  • http://artlifework.wordpress.com/ AnaDataGirl

    Hello Gianfranco! I’m not sure if I know what the key feature of future conferences will be. What I see is that conferences seem to have evolved from a series of talks (with coffee breaks in between designed to stimulate networking & replenish caffeine levels), to half-day, one-day or any other duration experiences with talks & artistic performances mixed in. Are we running the risk of having “TED-like” events all over the world that, in their search to mark a difference, actually end up being all the same? And is bigger, louder & “flashier” a good format? Or are we going to see a return to more “intimate” (thus smaller) events? Would love to hear your views!
    Ah, by the way, we’ll have the chance to meet in Porto since I’m actually also part of the “attractive roster of both international and local speakers” :)

    • http://www.gchicco.com Gianfranco Chicco

      Thanks Ana. I admire how TED is changing their own events and unleashing change that ends up affecting other events. What most event organizers that copy TED stuff often don’t wonder is what is the consequence of their actions. e.g.: why does TED make 18′ talks and is that time appropriate for my own event’s goals? Will address the copy-cat without the soul thing too.

  • http://twitter.com/sergio Sérgio Rebelo

    Hi! I will be there @ Switch too. I’m very interested on the content vs networking role of the conferences in the future.

    • http://www.gchicco.com Gianfranco Chicco

      Thanks Sergio, I will surely address the content vs networking role during my presentation (hint: they both matter equally and the key issue is how do you make them awesomely relevant in a physical experience)

  • http://www.meetjulius.com Julius Solaris

    Hi Gianfranco,

    I am sick and tired of concerts, I want more jam sessions. I am not talking necessarily about BarCamps or Unconferences as they became commodities. I am talking about mixing everyone together and share a live experience, with an end in mind.

    I love roundtables with no guest speakers, where everyone share their experience. I think we need more group therapy and less live performances.

    In bocca al lupo!

    • http://www.gchicco.com Gianfranco Chicco

      Thanks Julius!

      I like the concert/jam session metaphor. Losing [some] control can be a great source of value for many audiences, though it’s not for all of them. What I see that many events (conferences et al) lack is a clear definition of what they want to be, what they want to offer and to whom… most importantly, they don’t have a personality (been there, done that…). Some concerts are great (TED is more on this model), some jam sessions are amazing and are that ones that surprise me and satisfy me the most lately…

      [material for an article… we can try to do it ‘a quattro mani’]

      • http://www.meetjulius.com Julius Solaris

        We can surely do that :-)

  • Laura

    Hello Gianfranco, thanks for inviting me to your blog.

    Before talking about the future of conferences, I would like to expose our increasingly growing need for them.

    We want to attend to conferences and events such as Pecha Kucha, Transnatural, TEDex etc.. because as professionals we feel to urge to be informed more than ever before.

    This can be explained by the fast paced life we live now, and the media and information “saturation” we experience. It almost feels we are always missing out on things and lagging behind from latest stuffs happening, therefore conference and themed events are ways to fulfill our information and competence needs.

    Although we “yearn” and consume more conferences, we have a hard time being wowed. We tend to be disappointed about what we see and hear. These can be explained for the following reasons:
    Disengaging formats, lack of novelty in subjects, not enough diversity and moreover contextualization of the topics.

    So going back to your question: the future of conferences!

    Integral presentations: Content-format and charisma.
    The will require highly engaging speakers, and strict presentations guidelines. Probably there will be conference director casting speakers by their charisma, content of the presentation, formats and visuals of the presentations and use of support presentation aids.

    More interactive media in presentations, hopefully power point will be forbidden, and poor visual quality in presentations too.

    Peer to peer interaction
    Speakers and audiences interacting, having a peer to peer relation and talk, instead of I know you do not. So we need dialogues on stages rather than monologues. These dialogues will be with people from every corner of the world. So a conference can be a password to a platform to engage and learn about certain topics.

    Moving stories
    High tech is definitely creating more space for emotions. Tell me a personal story that moves me, not some scientific discovery, because now days technology is developed in every corner of the world.

    • http://www.gchicco.com Gianfranco Chicco

      Thanks Laura, there are a lor of interesting insights in your comment. One in particular: ‘more space for emotions’. I think this should go beyond the presentations (and beyond cheesy emotions) -> the look & feel of the conference space, the food, the relationship between organizers and attendees and speakers, it should all be full of emotions.

  • Monique van Dusseldorp

    Conferences are holidays for intelligent people.

    Being away from the office, meeting a few smart strangers if you are lucky (and always some topic to chat about), or finally having some time to be alone, among a group of connected strangers. Ideas being tossed around, enjoying the sounds and sights of a foreign city. Nothing beats it actually. A great conference is like a three day sabbattical.

    What could that mean for the future of conferences?

    – More conferences with a surprising mix of topics, from the arts, science, technology.

    – Greater emphasis on the theatrical experience. A new kind of expertise is needed almost: a conference stage director, who after the conference curator has selected the speakers, puts the whole event together minute by minute, thinking of the emotions from one talk to another, the stage design, the light. More people from the theatre to start working in conferences!

    – Speakers with great story telling skills getting more important. Companies might start hiring actors or training their own staff in speaking skills, and involve professional speech writers.

    – More attention to all the details outside the conference room: how people meet, how they are welcomed, what other activities there are, the food etc.

    – Apart from all the attention to the conference experience, a lot more attention to the selection of the audience. Everyone feels that one of the most important things of any conference is who you can meet there. But at the same time the audience selection process is often limited to, ”anyone interested in the speaker program who can afford the time and money”. We could see more invitation only events, or more events where the audience assists in the selection process.

    – More conferences organised by groups of volunteers, as we see with the TEDx events. It’s a strange thing how TEDx is a magnet for talent. Conferences connecting groups of people with the same interest, who enjoy working together, conferences as a Gesamtkunstwerk, where audience and team are the same.

    – With so many people working at screens all day long, a need for more physical interaction. More conferences with a strong physical element – taking a walk together, riding bicycles, collecting wood to build a fire or some other activity.

    – Conferences as personal journeys, where you get talks catered to your own interests, but also a coach that will help you with both business and personal decisions. Conferences paid for by your health insurance, and a cheap and easy way for groups of people to get new energy. :-)

    anyway. Hope your talk goes well, despite the Prezi problems!

  • Monique van Dusseldorp

    Great example of the alternative to a conference: physical activity, sports based event to build connections, this one for tech entrepreneurs http://thenextweb.com/video/2011/05/27/the-future-of-conferences-the-anti-conference-maitai2011/

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