Why are conferences so popular? It is difficult to find recent numbers about the growth of conferences but I feel pretty confident in saying that the conference scene is larger than ever and continues to grow. In this article from 2013, the U.S Bureau of Labor and Statistics expected conferences to grow 44% from 2010 to 2020. I expect that we exceeded that growth percentage.
If you had gone back 15 years ago, you might have thought that the growth of the Internet and video technologies would mean that physical, in person conferences would be on the decline. However, the opposite appears to be the case. Why is that?
I think there is one word that explains it - community.
First, the proliferation of social media, blogs and other internet content have made it very easy to find a community of like minded people that share your interests. Pre-internet, if you had a small niche interest then it would be hard to find other people to interact with. Now with the internet you can connect with people all over the world and share your interests with ease.
But if this sharing is so easy, why are conferences so popular?
Human beings are inherently social beings. We can develop relationships with people over the internet but there is still nothing like a face to face meeting. Conferences fill that gap for us. We get to meet like minded people from all over the world that share common interests. No matter how good technology gets, there is still something about talking to people face to face and building relationships. Conferences are one way to fill that gap.
So if they are popular, will they continue to grow? I think the answer is yes. The idea of building commmunity and the importance of it from a business perspective are going to continue to be an important aspect for years to come. One example is the proliferation of the Developer Advocate role. While there is still variablility in what these roles due, all of them have some focus on building communities. Businesses are investing because they know it is important for the future.
As the Forbes article says:
Whether it’s through in-person events or online forums, communities are key to brand loyalty, awareness and overall success. A strong and engaged community will lead to improved products, learning and innovation, as well as company growth.
Give that backdrop, why did we build this thing called slideZing?
Go back to the original premise that people need face to face contact to truly build relationships. Taken to a conference setting, the conference talk is very much a one way interaction. The presenter can share content but it is very difficult for them to get feedback. As an audience member there is no easy way to ask questions or share a simple "good job" with the presenter.
As the size of the audience grows, this is even more difficult.
In a room with 10 people, it is easy to talk and engage the crowd. But once the crowd grows to 50 or 500 people, how do you do it?
There are some low tech options like yelling or passing around a microphone. As well as some higher tech 3rd party polling apps solutions but they typically require a lot of setup and are not widely adopted. That's where slideZing hopes to improve the process.
slideZing is a simple tool that allows presenters to naturally engage with their audience - even when there are hundreds of people in the conference hall. To make it as simple as possible, we are using the lowest common denominator technology- the SMS text message. Pretty much everyone has a phone that can send and receive a text message with associated images.
slideZing provides an intuitive and simple service to allow the presenter to engage with their audience by soliciting feedback and sharing slide images. The presenter is in control and can show as much or as little of the feedback as they feel comfortable.
We are very excited about slideZing because it is a tool for building communities. It can help the audience feel more connected to the speaker. The speaker gets access to more feedback and comments than they could traditionally get from a short Q&A session. Finally, the speaker is in control since they use a slideZing provided phone number - not their own.
Let us know what you think in the comments.