Conferences are bunk. This one wasn’t. – by Colman Lydon, VP at Everwise.

Conferences are bunk. This one wasn’t. – by Colman Lydon, VP at Everwise.

In the spirit of ownership of bias, I need to make two disclosures:

  1. I have been involved with the Irish International Business Network for 10 years.
  2. I can’t stand conferences – the blather, the forced networking, the crappy hotels, the uninspiring/under-exposed exhibits, the over-priced tickets and the over-processed learning.

However, this time it was different.

The Irish International Business Network is a global, voluntary organization of professionals, connected to Ireland. Two hundred members gathered in Dublin last week, for the 6th Annual IIBN Global Conference, under the banner of Connectivity.

Having attended, presented, exhibited and sponsored conferences across a variety of countries, industries, venues, size and purpose, over the past decade, my over-riding sense was one of ennui. The search for a reliable return on investment continued, until now.

I know, I know, you get out of these events what you put in to them. In efforts to appeal to an ever-wider audience, the programs devolve to the lowest common denominator, appealing to more people, while lessening their appeal to all. Genuine effort on the part of the participating delegates, sponsors, presenters is oft met with the dreaded 1,000 yard stare, or the purposeful repost, “…that’s not what I’m here for.”

Conferences are BIG business, the B2B events industry is estimated by Statista to be just shy of $30 billion. Wow!

So, what makes a good conference? Or, more precisely, what makes a good conference for me?

Connectivity flipped the model on its head, with three key disticntions:

  1. Format: The conference organizers put the delegates on stage, instead of in the halls, with a series of pitches and presentations. It showcased mentors and role models, to inspire the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs.
  2. Venue: It was hosted in the intimate and historic settings of the Irish House of Lordsand the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. The juxtaposition of these 18th century venues and 21st century business and technology, gave me a sense of perspective I’ve never felt at another conference.
  3. Diversity: Attendees came from an array of professional disciplines, as well as levels and functions, within those disciplines. Delegates were competitive and accomplished, but not at the expense of other delegates.

The format gave new voices a platform. The choice of venue fostered big ideas, through historic perspective. The diversity de-risked disclosure, promoting learning and idea sharing. The return on investment was inherent in these three key distinctions.

Congratulations to the team behind the conference, most notably Ailbhe MullenConor Foley and Alison Myles.

With my faith in conferences restored, I look forward to Connectivity 2018!


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