I have been in some amazing conferences. Others have made me groan inside. I have plain escaped some more. Looking back at what has made a conference memorable, out of the hundreds I have attended, I realise the speakers count. An amazing speaker can make the whole thing worthwhile. But worthwhile is not the same as memorably good.
The participants help. I have been to conferences where I guiltily skip rather uninteresting plenaries to have an amazing conversation with a colleague I have just met. But again, it will make me say, glad I went, not wow, I am lucky to be here. There are even times when there are great speakers, attracting a great crowd, but the vision is missing. The sights are too low. The themes too peripheral. The amazing conferences for me have been the one’s where great speakers address powerful themes in a compelling atmosphere to a confluence of high minded people with serious CVs behind them. I think I am about to experience one of these genuine events, inner as well as outer, in just over a months’ time, at the ebbf international conference on 6-8 of May, the latest in its series on international events designed to explore the boundaries of business in the 21st century.
The theme is a A New Paradigm Of Business, and it is appropriately held on the thousand year old grounds of Selsdon Park, combining an impressive sense of heritage with constant adaptations to the needs of the time. ebbf events likewise seek to build on the business and organizational insights of the past, preserve the best of our formidable collective learning, and adapt and reinvent it to face the distinctive challenges and opportunities that increasingly beckon us forward.
ebbf recognises and affirms that while, like Selsdon Park, the heritage of organizational insights, financial and business practices, collective ethos, and technical and technological know-how, has much to keep steering us safely and effectively toward an ever-advancing civilization, yet the extent of the challenges currently confronting the global system in all areas of endeavour amounts to a crisis of both insight and practice, demanding leaps of transformation and discovery animated by an enlightened ethical value frame. It acknowledges and celebrates as trail-blazers all who are dedicated to the challenge of seeking new solutions, and wishes to contribute to the emergence of that new consensus that will feed the new perspectives and approaches that liberate our collective potential, not just to meet the present challenges, but to achieve progress previously undreamed. Not every approach, solution, idea and experiment which such pioneers formulate and promote will endure the test of time: but it will be part of the conversation that takes the whole forward. On May 6-8, in the convergence of old and new of Selsdon Park, I anticipate that what Robert Maynard Hutchins called “the Great Conversation”, will take a small but significant leap forward, as what may come to be regarded as trail breakers meet each other and together crystallise today’s innovative insights that could be tomorrow’s common sense. I am looking forward to profiling the conference speakers in forthcoming One to One columns.
What makes a memorable conference for you? Keep daring.