Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Next Bigger Better Society Conference

My ex-colleague Matt Bamford-Bowes has created a new conference, Get Together, as part of an initiative called The Next Bigger Better Society.
It sounds very interesting and inspiring, and he agreed to answer some questions about the motivation for the conference, and his new project.
The conference takes place in mid-November, and if you go I’ll see you there.

Ben Hammersley - one of the confirmed speakers

Dan - What was the initial inspiration for project?
Matt - Easyjet. It might be a bit odd to think that Easyjet inspired a project about creating a collaborative conference, but here is why. I went to a conference with one of the partners at The Brooklyn Brothers. It was a pretty dire experience, poor speakers pitching about their "amazing" technology,  and what really captured the essence of this was the guy sat in the row in front of us spending an hour booking flights on Easyjet. It made me believe there was a better way of doing conferences, one that involved the audience as well as the speaker.

D - Why a new conference?  When does a conference work and when do books / blogs / whatever work?
M - Why a new conference is a question I have asked myself and am constantly asked. There were two reasons for it. The first was that I believed there was a gap in the market, a gap which could be filled by a conference that was more collaborative in nature than your typical conference. I have this genuine belief that this conference will been seen as intellectually important on the global stage, not just here in the UK. The second was value. I, like many people around me, would love to experience TED but the £4000 cost of a ticket is incredibly out of reach. It is a conference for the elite, the top 1%. I wanted the Get Together Conference to be about stimulating debate and curiosity about meaningful topic and themes, but at a price most people could afford. I guess you could say we are trying to be about the 99%. At £97 for our tickets, I think we are managing to achieve that.

D - What's the best conference you've been to, and what worked in particular?
M - Conferences fail for me when speakers are allowed to use it as a veiled pitch about their company. Why this doesn't work for me is that people go to hear from the speaker not from the brand. I don't want to hear about Coca-Cola for example, but i'd love to know how their CEO runs the business efficiently and effectively. I'd go to see him speak otherwise it just becomes another advert. By pioneering the idea of getting two speakers on stage at the same time talking about a challenge or an idea we have set them, I think this gives much more interesting conversation and hopefully post talk debate.

D - Any planned offshoots / follow ups?
M - We are already thinking about how we follow up next year with two events. One will be in support of our Get Together Fund, which is aimed at getting teens and their ideas off the ground through mentoring, microfunding and any other means. All the profits from this event will be put back into the fund and it will be driven by sponsorship. The idea of the event will be influential, modern idea curators talking to teens from around the UK, aiming to inspire them about themselves and their futures. The second will be a follow-up to Get Together and we are already in discussions with some really interesting speakers from around the world. We are also in discussions about a conference in Madrid, but we want to get the UK right first.

D - What is missing in conference landscape?
M - Dialogue. Genuinely I don't feel that there is much dialogue between speakers and audience at any conferences. I want our speakers to be able to interact with the audience and the audience to feel absolutely connected to what the speakers are talking about. If we fail in both those levels then no matter how many tickets we sell I don't think we will have been successful.

Get Together takes place on Friday 18th November from 9am – 1pm at The Wellcome Auditorium, NW1.
You can get tickets here.
You can find out more about the Get Together fund here, and The Next Bigger Better Society here.

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