The Conference as Catalyst for Creative Action

Philharmonie Haarlem, site of Creative Company Conference

Organizations are wising up to the value of hosting their own dynamic conferences. And these conferences aren’t the drab, flat talking-head, name tag, cheese-n-crackers affairs.

You’d be wise to add “Attend Creative Conference” to your Creative Action Checklist for 2011.

At the right conference, idea combustion can happen.
We know that creative ideas don’t come out of the ether. Although I advocate meditation and hours and hours of creative solitude for artists and art-repreneurs alike, ideas need catalysts. Steven Johnson’s research shows that when one person has a hunch, a tremble of an idea, that bonks with another person’s hunch, then break-throughs happen. Attend the right conference, and you could meet someone who won’t still your idea but dance with it in a new light that helps you see how to develop, execute, and ship that idea.

At the right conference, you get connected.
“Chance favors the connected mind.” Again, Steven Johnson. Or psychologist Richard Wiseman (The Luck Factor) who in his study of lucky people determined that successful people open themselves up to chance encounters. Just as the best education often happens away from campus, the best connections often happen off-stage.

At the right conference, you learn more of your stuff.
I’ve noticed that the people presenting, the people who really know their stuff, are also the ones who are most open and full of questions and curiosity about others. If you’re at the right conference, you’ll come away with great ideas, rousing stories, and some sound knowledge in your particular field.

You become whom you’re around.
Yogis and Buddhists call it a sangha, the power of “like-hearted people.” The 20th-century Europeans had their salons. Before that, the coffee shop. The conference is another model. Being around, hearing from, talking with people who have similar desires, knowledge, and questions as you helps you see your best self differently.

You return to the studio ready for action.
The best conferences send you off with new connections, new ideas, and new fuel to act.

Here are some conferences worth thinking about attending. If you miss them this year, slate them for 2012. Hope to see you there:

The Associated Writing Program’s Annual Conference
February 3-5, 2011
Washington, D.C.

This conference is the largest, most comprehensive writing conference in the U.S. It’s rich with panels on publishing & craft, readings, galas, and rooms full of publications, publishers, editors, and agents. I’m trucking down to D.C. this afternoon. Tomorrow, I’ll attend  sessions on publishing mostly to help my clients (and to bone up on the latest). And I’m also interviewing one of my favorite fiction writers Charlie Baxter for this blog and my book. His new story collection Gryphon came out this month. Baxter is a wonder-tracker. And the AWP attracts wonder-trackers of all kinds.

The YogaHub Virtual Yoga & Meditation Conference
February 8-12, 2011
Your Computer & Telephone

I’m amazed Christina Souza Ma and her merry tribe of technicians and teachers can pull off such a seamless 5-day conference that occurs virtually. 60 world-class teachers who know how to communicate the nitty-gritty of yoga, meditation, and optimal living to a wide audience. 75 workshops. All you need is a phone. Can you see yourself participating in a yoga workshop and talking with a premiere teacher on your subway commute? You get recordings of all the workshops so you can absorb the teachings at your leisure. And you get connected to the thousands of participants around the globe who like you know that this fleshy mobile home is part and parcel of our creative productivity.

[Note: I am an affiliate presenter for this conference. Use one of the links from this article and sign up, and, yes, I receive a pittance for presenting the Yoga as Muse for Creative Flow workshop on February 12. But I wouldn’t highlight them here, and I wouldn’t present here if I didn’t think this conference is just one-of-a-kind amazing. Use this code for a $50 discount: JFR219.]

TED Talks
Feb 28-Mar 4, 2011
Long Beach, CA

Founder Richard Saul Wurman’s model of bringing together great innovators to say something remarkable in under 20 minutes has set the tone for many of the other conferences listed here.

With a theme this year on “The Rediscovery of Wonder,” I know: I should be there. But I’m already booked that week to lead writers through a week of wonder in the Bahamas. (I’m not complaining.) TED is sold out, but if you can swing the $7,500 and pass the application process for next year, consider attending and getting a PhD education in innovation in a few days. Or check out the TEDx events, too, and consider hosting your own.

SxSW Interactive
March 11-15, 2011

I’m bummed I’ll miss this conference (I’ll be on my way next door to Taos, NM for another week of wonder). I love Austin. Although I’m not an avid techie or digit-geek, this conference of some of the world’s brightest tech innovators could open my eyes and mind to more electronic wonders.

The 99U Conference
May 5-6, 2011
The Times Center, NYC

Tracking Wonder is a patron sponsor of Scott Belsky’s extraordinary conference whose name expresses its mantra: “Innovation is 99% perspiration. 1% inspiration.” The Director of Google Ideas, animators, CEOs, designers, authors. It’ll be a high-voltage happening.

Internet Week NY
June 6-13, 2011

This open conference allows entrepreneurs of all kinds to host their own events, showcase their wares, and engage in rigorous conversations about how Net, business, and creative innovation.

The Creative Company Conference
June 7, 2011

Dutchman Rudolf van Wezel – a book and magazine publisher – collaborates with South-African Ravi Naidoo – head of the media company Interactive Africa – host this conference so business people can learn from creative innovators.

The World Domination Summit
June 4-5, 2011
Portland, OR (all over town)

Chris Guillebeau is coming off of his world tour (goal: visit every country on the globe) to host this city-wide, electrified gathering of young and bright and wise troopers. Top bloggers, a literary agent, bold entrepreneurs, and a slew of others will be speaking. But there’s also slated a variety of conversations in Portland’s pubs. “Adventure” is the mode of spirit here.

Drop in the Hut:
What conferences this winter and spring are you attending? Any great stories about what happened to you at a conference? Any favorite conference you attend regularly?

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