Welcome To
Conferences That Work
an innovative conference format that reliably builds
highly interactive, participant-led events,
leveraging attendee expertise and experience to
create exactly the conference that participants need and want.

"Simply the most productive conference I've been to."



Are you wondering how to start a new conference of peers who don't know each other well? Do you want to make your current face-to-face conference "can't miss" better, even as more and more content becomes available online? Are your events suffering from falling attendance, evaluations, or profits? I can help!

I'll help you create conferences around the content that your attendees really want and need. Conferences designed to build meaningful, mutually beneficial connections between participants. Conferences that help people work smarter.

I design and facilitate Conferences That Work: innovative, highly interactive, attendee-driven events that leverage attendees' expertise and experience to create just the conference that participants want. If necessary, you can include traditional plenary sessions into this innovative, time-tested format to create an event experience that will delight your attendees.

I'm available for consultation on your conference (re)design, present regularly about participant-led and participation-rich events, and lead interactive workshops on participation techniques anyone can use to improve their conference sessions. I also offer two popular sessions—The Solution Room and The Personal Introspective—that provide powerful opportunities for participants to connect, engage, and learn at your event.

My book, Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love condenses 30 years experience designing, organizing, and facilitating conferences into an information-packed step-by-step guide to a proven design for creating productive conferences that people love.

My next book, working title The Power of Participation, will be a guide to and compendium of participation techniques you can use to increase engagement and learning at any conference session.

Quick Links

An introduction to participant-led events: Demystifying The Unconference.

Named one of the 68 most innovative people in events by BizBash magazine.

How We Learn: The Books That Changed Meetings by Connect magazine.

A Meeting for Attendees, by Attendees by MeetingsNet magazine.

Voted one of the Top 5 Blogs in the Meetings and Events Industry.

Included in Top 10 Event Professionals Worth Knowing on Social Media.

Author of one of CVENT's 5 Favorite Event Industry Blog Posts.

Author of one of 5 Favorite Event Industry Blog Posts.

Planning the Unconference article about my work in Meetings & Conventions Magazine.

23 blog posts and videos about EventCamp EastCoast, a peer conference for event professionals that Adrian organized and facilitated in November 2010.

20 slides x 20 seconds Pecha Kucha talk "Face Your Fear—Change Your Event Design" given at EventCamp Twin Cities, September 2010

Howard Givner's review of EventCamp East Coast.

Peer Conference In Action

Recent Peer Conference Calendar Additions

To report conferences for inclusion in the events calendar >>>>

For more information on learning to hold Conferences That Work>>>>

  • Sep 18 2014 - Sep 20 2014: FinCon peer conference for personal finance media, New Orleans.
    FinCon is a peer conference for personal finance media. 700+ of the best bloggers and financial minds around today participate to connect, learn to create compelling online content, and discover the latest trends in the world of personal finance. FinCon is an annual event with a dual mission:
  • Sep 22 2014 - Sep 24 2014: United Way Worldwide Global Fellows Summit, United Way Worldwide Headquarters, 701 N Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314.
    The United Way Worldwide Global Fellows Summit brings together United Way Worldwide's Global Fellows for a three-day Conferences That Work format meeting, for which Adrian will lead The Solution Room, Personal Introspective, and Group Spective on the last day.
  • Sep 22 2014 - Sep 23 2014: The National Association of Sports Commissions Market Segment Meeting, Hilton Chicago, 720 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL.
    Adrian will be facilitating the 2014 NASC Market Segment Meeting, helping convention & visitor bureaus and sports commissions share ideas and discuss industry problems. The event design includes The Solution Room, facilitated discussions, a Personal Introspective, and Group Spective.
  • Nov 06 2014 - Nov 07 2014: The 3rd annual Vermont Vision for a Multicultural Future Educational Conference, Grand Summit Hotel & Conference Center at the Mount Snow Resort, West Dover, Vermont.
    Vermont Vision conferences provide unique, stimulating learning environments for Vermont leaders on change management models and initiatives that create and sustain environments free of prejudice and discrimination. Our conferences convene practitioners with proven ability achieving goals of multic
  • Mar 19 2015 - Mar 22 2015: Faff Camp—a peer conference for Voiceover Professionals, Omni San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade – San Antonio, TX.
    Faff Camp is a peer-to-peer professional development conference for working voiceover pros (not just voice talents, voice actors, and narrators, but all pros who do work related to voice overs). It’s participant driven and highly interactive, just like its sister event >>>>


From The Blog:

September 15, 2014

A caveat on working with human “Catalysts”

catalyst 4267237788_2cee555179_o

cat·a·lyst

/ˈkatl-ist/
noun
a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.

Nearly 200,000 people include the word catalyst in their LinkedIn profile. A catalyst is something that causes a change without being changed itself. For example, a gas or diesel car’s exhaust system uses a catalytic converter to reduce air pollution. The core catalytic components of the converter do not get altered or used up as they do their job.

In the competitive world of consulting, the word catalyst has become a synonym for change. Catalyst sounds sexy, mysterious, and—scientific! Not surprising then that it’s become a common marketing term for consultants. “Idea Catalysts”, “Strategic Catalysts”, “Creativity Catalysts”, “Innovation Catalysts”, and “Marketing Catalysts” abound.

But can you be a genuine catalyst—a person who facilitates change of some sort but stays unchanged in the process?

I don’t think so.

If you set yourself up as an unchangeable teacher or trainer who flies in, runs your box of process to change others in some way, and leaves unaltered, you are someone who is closed to learning while simultaneously advocating it to others. This is not congruent behavior.

I attempt to be open to learning as much as I can. I wrote my first book about participant-driven and participation-rich conference design after seventeen years refining the process first used in 1992. Four years later, I published an update that included many important improvements I’d learned from feedback and my own observations. Every conference I facilitate leads to more ideas; there will always be refinements to the Conferences That Work format for as long as I’m convening events.

In fact, if I ever run an event and feel that I haven’t learned something from it and been changed in the process, that will a sign that I’m losing my effectiveness and should consider doing something different.

I’m not sure that you can facilitate change effectively without being changed yourself—or, at the very least, being open to the reality that you may be changed.

So if you’re planning to work with someone who calls themselves a Catalyst, be cautious. They may be using the term as a synonym for change (like my friend Thom Singer who is certainly open to being changed himself), but alternatively, they may believe that they are true catalysts—they “have the answer”. The wisest and most interesting individuals I know are, despite their obvious expertise and experience, always open to learn from anyone and be changed in the process. These are the people with whom you may want to spend your time.

Photo attribution: Flickr user rustychainsaw

Conferences That Work book cover

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Testimonial

There’s a relatively new, growing trend towards unconferences, sometimes organized using open space technologies. An excellent “how to” book on organizing this type of conference is Conferences that Work by Adrian Segar. — Gregg Marshall, American Institute of Inspectors, January 2011 newsletter

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