How to gauge the energy for creating a new conference

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could know whether a great idea would lead to a successful new event?

Creating a new conference is a chancy business that requires a certain amount of guts. I have worked on several conference projects that haven’t panned out, and there’s no question that failing to engage a critical mass of registrants for an event that you thought would be popular is a disheartening experience.

Despite success in creating many successful new conferences over the last thirty years, I still don’t know how to predict whether an event will be viable. But I have learned one thing.

One requirement for success is being able to easily find others—my rule of thumb is at least four people—who share your vision for the conference and are willing to help make the event a reality. In the past, I’ve tried to gauge commitment intuitively. Recently, while rereading Peter Block’s wonderful book Community: The Structure of Belonging with my Consultants and Trainers monthly network group (now in its 16th year!) I came across his Four Early Questions, which he uses to negotiate the social contract between group members to “shift the ownership of the room”. Peter suggests asking people to rate on a seven-point scale, from low to high, their responses to these four questions:

  • How valuable an experience (or project, or community) do you plan for this to be?
  • How much risk are you willing to take?
  • How participative do you plan to be?
  • To what extent are you invested in the well-being of the whole?

When building any kind of new endeavor, I think these questions provide a useful way to learn more about the people you may be working with, and so I’m sharing them with you here.