Don’t Settle, Think Big. | Taking Meetings to a Higher Level

This past week, I was very fortunate to attend the 2011 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media in Atlanta. As with last year, it was a very solid meeting with some very bright, dedicated individuals committed to making a difference. However, as I sat in the hotel lobby one evening after the day’s events had concluded, I felt that there were some missed opportunities. Images on CNN of the on-going tragedy in Somalia really moved me and I was left feeling that, given the opportunity, the attendees at the meeting could have come up with some creative, impactful ways to become part of a larger cause.

Last year, I wrote a post on 3 Questions to Ask BEFORE You Decide to Present (at a conference) and I think I’d like to add another to that list – What is this conference going to do to make a difference? It is axiomatic that conferences aim to provide attendees skills and information to help them be more successful in their own area of interest or work. Conference that are also able to leverage the energy, enthusiasm and experience that come together and that empower attendees to work collectively toward a higher purpose are still far too rare.

This vision is hardly revolutionary. Code-a-thons are often put together explicitly to develop concrete projects with the greater good in mind. The TED conference and associated TED prize certainly provide excellent models for how conferences can be used to manifest change and NTEN uses the Day of Service approach at their annual meeting (h/t Alex Bornkessel).

There are also individuals that seem to be particular adept at incorporating social causes as part of their work and their life. I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Geoff Livingston and how he is able continually add value and meaning to what he does – both professionally and personally.

What I am suggesting here though is that we try to make a paradigm shift in how all conferences operate. Undoubtedly this is a sizable task, yet it is increasingly rare to go to a conference that is not making an effort to be more “green”. Environmental stewardship, even if it sometimes only done with a cursory nod, is becoming the norm. There is precedent and thus there is hope. If you are attending, presenting or planning a conference in the near future, ask the question – What is this conference going to do to make a difference?

Don’t Settle, Think Big.

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