I love going to conferences, if I could do that for a living I would. But the more I think about the structure, the model, and the pricing of conferences I start to wonder if they are relavant for 20 somethings (and even teenagers)?
Here is my premise that brings conferences into question:
Everything is Changing
The way we have done things in the past are not the way we do things today.
Entertainment is changing
Education is changing
Music is changing
Publishing is changing
Food is changing
It seems that everything has a shelf life and the only way to last is to see the shift that is happening around you.
Looking through the lens of the 21st century conference scene, not much has changed. Sure the technology, clothing, and speakers have changed, but the structure is mostly the same. Thousands attend and millions are spent all in the name of (insert Church Conference 2011 here) being a life changing event. But what is the lasting effect that is being had on Generation iY as Tim Elmore likes to call 20 somethings. I love going to conferences but it is not the conferences that are shaping me.
What is shaping me today is relationships. And I think that is the very thing that could shape all 20 somethings. There is no formula, plan, piece of technology, or even human being shot out of a canon ball that can have the impact that relationships can have on a 20 something.
Conferences have stopped becoming relevant to 20 somethings because they have become to centralized on a cast of personalities and not on the mentor relationship.
Instead of promoting many they focus on the few. Instead of providing follow up conversations they provide follow up spam for next year. Instead of having open doors they have VIP doors. You get my point. And I am not here to take shots at conferences. I think we have all been guilty of doing this, especially myself, I do it everyday.
The question remains:
Do 20 Somethings need conferences or do conferences need 20 Somethings?
Right now you might say both, but the more you step back and look at conferences you will see that conferences need 20 somethings. 20 somethings have learned over time that they are going to have to do it on their own. Sure you might thing we are lazy and unappreciative, and in fact we are, but that could also be because we have never been challenged to be anything different. In fact the only time you hear of 20 somethings being different is when they do it all on their own. But while you are attending your conferences, 20 somethings are changing the way things are done in the world (thank you Mr. Zuckerberg) and are doing them on their own. Why? Because there are to few concerned about listening and to many concerned about speaking.
Until conferences start focusing on the relationship/mentoring side, 20 Somethings will continue to walk away in 2 ways:
In another direction
Establishing a place where you can come and be fed,challenged, and poured into is the very thing that all 20 somethings need. Unfortunately, it is easier to spend thousands of dollars to go and sit in a crowd of 10,000 people and feel more alone then ever then it is to find a mentoring/community relationship with leaders.