I have just come to the end of speaking at a series of five corporate responsibility conferences/events in close succession. It seemed like a lot. In fact, my esteemed colleague @Dstangis even suggested on Twitter that I am attending so many conferences that perhaps I don’t have enough work to do! In practice, it probably represents only half the of what I could have gone to and I have to miss some I would very much like to attend. The budget only goes so far.
Seems to me that that the conferences fit into one of three categories that define the flavor of the event, and for me, will help me determine which I prioritize going forward. Those categories are defined by who is leading the conference: (1) mission driven organizations (2) schools/students and (3) conference organizations.
I have found that conferences driven by mission driven organizations and schools (or student) organizations in the CR space are the most valuable. They tend to have a better defined objective, clear flow of events and better organized panels. Those organized by mission driven organizations are the best for me for networking and learning from peers. Those organized by schools and students are without doubt the most energizing and motivating. Students tend to ask more challenging questions with little worries for the ‘people in glass houses’ concern that those of us in corporations might have when we consider challenging each other in public foray.
I have not been as impressed with events led and organized by conference companies. I have seen less interest from the organizers in the flow of the event and in the participants in the panels. I have also discovered that it is a bad sign when the panelists are not contacted by the facilitator in advance of the conference to ensure the different presentations fit together appropriately.
Last year I attended the Unconference in DC and am looking forward to attending again this year. This is a completely different conference format in which participants together determine the agenda at the beginning of the day. They are running in multiple locations this year with the new title Solutions Labs. I have some ideas for the Labs, which I will share shortly in a post.
I would be interested in hearing others perspectives on the CR conference circuit. Any you particularly recommend (unbiased perspectives welcomed, no self promotion please :-) )?