What if we completely rethought conferences?

A very large part of my work life is conferences.  Attending, facilitating, speaking and showing.  I have done it all over the years.

But there is one event every year that completely stands out from the crowd.  It is an event I have no real business being at but also the one I personally get the most out of every year.  CaboPress.

CaboPress is an event I can only categorize as a Thought Leadership Consortium amongst the WordPress community.  For those unfamiliar, WordPress is the vehicle that over 35% of all websites you experience on a daily basis are built upon.  An open source platform that is ripe for plug ins, designers, agencies and more to both build upon and sell across.  CaboPress is the premier, invitation only, event of the year where thought leaders in the space are invited to simply share.  No sales agenda, no show floor….just a constant, lightly currated idea exchange.

To say the format is unique would be under playing it.  Each day begins with an optional workout beachside (the whole reason I get invited). 

Morning workout on Day 1 of CaboPress 2021

From there, there are two sessions each morning with two topics discussed simultaneously….on either end of the pool.   Yes, you read that right and yes, it really works. 

How?  The audience is intimate and hand picked.  This year attendance was limited to fifty.  Not 5000, not 500 but 50 curated individuals and business from around the world.  Each with a very specific, and at least for this audience, unique viewpoint into the WordPress ecosystem.   It’s a format that should result in an annual boondoggle but instead curates amazing and very real business conversations.  It shouldn’t work but it does.

The success of this event has got me thinking – what if we rethought the entire concept of a conference?

Or at least a particular type of conference.

Let’s be real, the typical conference is all about attracting more attendees through more popular keynote speakers, more opportunity on the show floor and sponsorship opportunities.  It’s the classic business model of a conference.  The more attendees, the more profitable (aka successful) the event is.   But is that really how the attendees are defining success?

Attendees, the ones who are looking to gain something out of a conference vs. just having a week out of the office and some SWAG to bring home to the kids, are looking to have a problem answered.  To talk with peers about the struggles they face that might be common and the reassurance that they are not alone.  You don’t get that on a showroom floor or from a talking head on the stage (says the guy who is often looked to to be the talking head) – you get that from community.  From direct interaction with an intimate group of peers and maybe even a few who are outside your direct purview. 

Maybe I am mislabeling it all together.  Maybe it is not a conference at all but rather a mastermind group.

An intimate mastermind group designed to push you forward in your thinking, your development and your business.

Maybe that is what we all need, regardless of industry.  A mastermind group designed to push us past our typical thinking in a safe but aggressive way.

I know I need it every year and I think if you experienced it – you would to.

Here’s to rethinking ‘The Conference’ in 2021 & 2022.

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