John-Paul Flintoff: Article

John-Paul Flintoff

Harness the power of membership groups - at little cost

Too many conferences and networking events leave members feeling overlooked, unheard and frustrated. Which is the worst possible outcome, and also expensive.

But there’s another way! Events that harness the capabilities of every participant, at minimal expense. This creates a strong bond, makes people feel valued, and is usually also a lot more entertaining.

CASE STUDY: The publisher Unbound invited me to organise a day long workshop with 25 leading authors, to reinvent an industry in decline.

Several of the authors were initially wary, and sceptical about the value of the exercise. But we created a safe space for individuals to raise questions such as:

  • Should authors make their money like bands by going on tour?
  • Are online patronage and serialisation viable options?
  • If the author is networking, and closing deals, what’s an agent for?
  • How can we improve our own writing skills, when we’re supposed to be good already?
  • How could there be more diversity in publishing?
  • How do we communicate value for money, when people spend half the price of a book on a cup of coffee?
  • and many more questions that are rarely spoken aloud, for lack of a willing and interested audience.

Then we created a simple mechanism for people to discuss only the topics that truly interested them, and to write up reports.

Several of the ideas dreamed up on that day have subsequently been made real.

Additionally, the individuals reported a feeling of genuine, meaningful participation that is horribly lacking from most conferences and other networking events – where attendees are too often treated merely as numbers, and leave feeling they have wasted their time.

Who else needs this kind of event:

  1. Teams that need to be re-engaged, with real input into strategy
  2. Membership organisations that truly want to involve members
  3. Organisations worried that conferences are not truly participative
  4. Individuals wanting to create a movement with others who share their interests
  5. Agencies representing groups of separate individuals who could be more powerful if they came together

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