The Ultimate, Blended Conference Experience In The Digital Age

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How advancing leaders contribute to an event where everybody wins

The Hall of Sciences in Vienna has been an important meeting place to share knowledge since the 17th century. Over the last few days, the impressive, early baroque building has served as the venue for the 6th Global Peter Drucker Forum, bringing more than 30 intriguing speakers to inspire 400 onsite attendees and thousands of livestream participants from all over the world on the topic of the “The Great Transformation.”

The organizer has made it easy for the participants to network onsite as well as online. The coffee break and lunch area is organized around small tables without chairs, the participants mingle seamlessly through the room, and the large name badges make introductions easy. The speakers, many of whom are authors as well, are located in the same area, passionately sharing samples of their books and discussing with attendees.

The online conversation does not stop among the onsite attendees. Beyond focusing on the in-person experience, a significant number of the participants use Twitter to share observations and reflections important to them.

The conference Twitter hashtag #GPDF14 was established in the period leading up the event. During the event, the hashtag serves as the glue between the speakers, as well as the onsite and online participants, allowing everyone to tune into the conversation. It is easy to ping other people on Twitter, livestreamers or not, when something of special interest shows up:

As a tweeting attendee, you may use Twitter to suggest a spontaneous meet-up in the next break with other attendees to discuss a certain topic. Why not approach your favorite speakers and ask them which book they recommend given where you are in the business? If you can’t make it in person, use Twitter or LinkedIn if they have an open profile. You will be surprised to see how easy it is to connect with your key inspirational sources and start building relationships.

During the conference

All in all, it is possible for attendees as well as online followers not only to maximize their own conference experience, but also to facilitate the learning for other people not following the conference. Non-attendees may get prompted to engage and learn, using Twitter as a wonderful university for new opportunities. Everybody wins: the organizer, the speakers, the attendees and the non-attendees.

On a personal note, these are the 7 key results of my #GPDF14 experience:

1. In-depth understanding of complex topics which are vital to the development of new offerings
2. Personal relationships initiated with 3 speakers of special interest
3. Clarity on which conference authors I want to prioritize over the next months
4. Unexpected learning on macro level topics which helps me put my own stories into perspective
5. A handful of long term nurture leads, emerging out of coffee breaks
6. Dramatic reduction of requests for business cards. We are finding each other on Twitter instead.
7. Facilitation of key learning points and inspiration to several business partners not attending the conference via Twitter

What is your game plan to get the most out of your next conference attendance? Or do you find yourself inspired to search for the conferences you can’t join in-person and follow the conversation via Twitter instead? I would love to get your comments and learn more about your experiences of what makes a conference valuable to you in the digital age.