Movement makers, mountains and music at Alptitude 2016

Why the experience revolution will kill the conference as we know it

In a complex world that craves more meaning, the events we experience will start to look very different. Thanks to a few trailblazers this change is already under way…

“There was only one problem”

said Dorothy, speaker and co-founder of startup Maptia

“No-one really seemed to have business cards and exchanging emails was somehow less of a priority than hugging goodbye.”

Uh oh.

So much for this being a ‘business’ event.

But this wasn’t such a bad thing.

Our measure of success for last year’s Happy Startup Summercamp? Not whether we’d sold out the event (we had), or how many business cards had been exchanged (zero) but rather the amount of hugging that went on at the end.

This may seem ludicrious to some, but what other metric best encapsulates the impact it had on people? And given attendees hadn’t met before and were together for less than 50 hours this was far from a given.

Thankfully we had nothing to worry about. There were hugs on tap. But more than the meaningful connections that people made, it was the level of transformation people experienced throughout the course of the weekend that hit home.


So what is a conference?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary definition:

A formal meeting of people with a shared interest, typically one that takes place over several days.

Formal being the operative word.

We go to discover new ideas, get inspired and meet new people. However more often than not we hear the same old stuff, leave feeling no different and never stay in touch.

“I’ve spent two decades loitering under the unnatural light of conference centres, swigging rank coffee, pondering which lanyard-scheduled, thinly veiled sales pitch to suffer next.” Jack Hubbard, CEO Propellernet

He’s not the only one.

More and more of us are craving more meaningful experiences and deeper connections than we ever could get in a stuffy, soulless conference centre.

We’ve reached the point where we now understand that nature, not neon, has the answers we need.

Where would you rather be?

The rise of the experience economy

In their groundbreaking 1999 book The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore predicted a new age of consumer behaviour and consumption – moving away from good and services towards experiences, ultimately towards those that are truly transformative.

The now legendary Alptitude ‘pretend confereence’ held in May 2015 in France

Pine and Gilmore argued that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product — the “experience”.

They also state that more advanced experience businesses can begin charging for the value of the “transformation” that an experience offers.

So what does a transformative experience look like?

Think of it as shifting ourselves up Maslow’s hierachy of needs. Here’s what we focus on at The Happy Startup School for our events:

  • Tribal
    Gathering people around a common purpose and set of values will help to create magic.
  • Emergent
    A focus on making an impact on those participating and allowing them to ask questions and show vulnerability, not teaching them what they already know.
  • Natural
    The best ideas don’t come in the boardroom. Get outside and you’ll get better results.
  • Tech-free
    Leave your Apple Watch at home. You can tweet when you get back to the real world.
  • Memorable
    Create moments that matter. Moments that might lead to a step change in someone. The devil is in the detail.
  • Truthful
    No bullshit. Real stories. Real people.
  • Fun
    Although we’re serious about our work, we keep it light.

If you want to be happy, develop meaningful relationships, generate next-level ideas and connect with endless inspiration, get yourself along to The Happy Startup Summercamp in September. Just leave your business cards at home. Your soul will thank you for it.

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