How to Win Back the “Dones” and Increase Attendance

By Jeff Hurt, February 3, 2017

Have you met the “dones”? Associations are feeling the effects of a general shift toward distrust of institutions, and with that comes a struggle to grow attendance at conferences and events. Sociologist Dr. Josh Packard identifies four areas conference planners should focus on to win back the “dones”—those who have become disillusioned with organizations—as they shift to new models.

1) Participation, Not Dictation

When we think of conveying information, we think of telling somebody something. We are so obsessed with coverage and thinking it translates into learning. It fundamentally does not. Most people today are tired of only listening to and consuming content. They want to participate more. They realize if they are going to truly understand a big issue, they need to talk to several people about it, not only one expert. For people trying to make their way through a regulatory environment, a shifting business world, new technologies or whatever, we’ve got to talk to one another in small groups.

2) Activity, Not Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy here is a metaphor for unnecessary and tedious tasks. In organizations, it’s about the pushing of paper and procedures that get in the way of things that matter. That same thing happens in meetings and conferences. How much of attendees’ time is spent doing meaningful things and how much is spent shuffling from place to place? How much time is spent sitting through an awards presentation in a ballroom of 1,500 where the participant might casually know one person receiving an award? That’s not a good use of the participants’ time.

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