If gathering the elites are exclusive

There’s a place for events being exclusive and invite-only. There’s a place to celebrate excellence. Yet when done in the public eye like a conference that’s priced beyond the pay grade of normal people, what kind of an impact does that have, especially for the next generation? This Business Week article describes an aspect of a possible dynamic between generations:

TED’s Not Dead, But It Is Aging: The annual conference tries to reach out to a new generation, awkwardly

TED was born in 1984 as an underground dinner party for information designer Richard Saul Wurman and friends from the worlds of technology, entertainment, and design. This year, 1,500 people paid $6,000 each to attend the modern version of TED, held in the Long Beach (Calif.) Performing Arts Center from Feb. 9-13. Five hundred more paid $3,750 to watch a simulcast… Twenty-six years in, TED is showing signs of age. One of the most conspicuous is the makeup of attendees, diverse only in that TED appears to attract a white man from every street in Silicon Valley. … conferences… have struggled with similar issues, like: how to get more inclusive without sacrificing intimacy. How to keep loyalists happy while attracting a younger crowd closer to the headwaters of innovation. And how to get that younger crowd to pay six grand.

For a conference junkie like me, I do wonder out loud… (just a tad ironic that I’m returning from a conference, and #sxsw, the conference of conferences is happening right now in Austin) how can people get access? Are these events a good use of money? Words like “stewardship” are seeping into our venacular. Will people travel to gather for a different kind of event when there isn’t that formulaic production of keynotes and workshops? [update] cf. a set of Purpose-Driven regional events for small group leaders that describes itself as “a radical new approach to conferences”; a whole book about this concept= Conferences and Conventions: A Global Industry (Events Management), by Tony Rogers, has a chapter titled “The economics of conferences and conventions

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5 Responses

  1. Vern Sanders says:

    Stewardship is one thing…in worship ministry, often the pay grade is not sufficient to be able to afford conferences…

  2. Drew says:

    DJ- Thanks for the post.

    I think this is a key issue for reconciliation efforts as well, at least in the Christian conference scene that I’ve been exposed to over the past year (I haven’t been much of a conference attender until this year).

    Since socio-economic status is often tied to divisions in race, there’s a limit to who (minority groups) can and cannot attend certain gatherings.

    I wasn’t surprised that most of the Christian conferences I attended were comprised of mostly middle-class whites, but I was surprised at how overwhelmingly middle-class white the gatherings have been. I do think price has been a huge factor, although I can certainly suggest some other factors that led to largely mono-ethnic audience.

    SN: I’ve been to Black Church conferences and they can be mono-ethnic as well.

    What makes this situation difficult is that in many respects, the rich get richer by having access to these conferences, not only by the content that they can download and hear, but by the connections that are made in conference settings.

    Hopefully these conferences are thinking about ways to build bridges to these lesser resourced communities.. in the end, I believe we need specific champions (people) who are willing and committed to building connections in these lesser resources communities.