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A User’s Guide to Conferences

Summer is conference season – a critical time for building brands, making connections, and shaping industries. The best conferences help a community to define and understand itself, while illuminating the demands and challenges that the relevant market faces.

DALLAS – Summer is conference season – a critical time for building brands, making connections, and shaping industries. Indeed, though people increasingly learn and interact online, we retain a fundamental need to engage in person. At conferences, such engagement is guided by a few basic principles. Understanding them – being “conference literate” – is critical to making the most of a conference, whether as an organizer, speaker, or attendee.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a conference is its purposes, which all participants should identify for themselves. An individual or organization may attend a conference to understand the future of bottled water, to find procurement managers who buy bottled water, or even to disrupt the bottled-water market with water-filtration systems. A speaker may want to promote his or her employer, or find a new one.

Even the organizers can have purposes beyond direct profit. For example, the conference could be held to give legitimacy to a corresponding trade show, where the main sources of revenue are sponsorships and rental of floor space. Or it could be intended to impress the organizer’s clients, thereby generating longer-term revenue. Or it could be a service to an organization’s members or to a venture capitalist’s portfolio companies.

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