Should You Host a Tiny Conference?

If you’re launching a new meeting, it should not be all about making it your biggest one yet. Here's why it could benefit your association and your attendees to go smaller.

If you’re a fan of HGTV, you’ve probably caught an episode or two of Tiny House Hunters or Tiny House, Big Living. And if you have kids or friends and family with kids, you are likely familiar with Shopkins—the tiny, plastic shopping-themed toys that kids trade and share with one another.

The popularity of these things makes the case that “bigger isn’t always better” and, in the case of tiny houses, that less space doesn’t mean less functionality. You can get more than you think out of something that seems to offer less.

Is the tiny trend something that your association should consider when it comes to its meeting and events?

In the latest issue of Associations Now, Senior Editor Tim Ebner looked at associations that are moving away from the mindset of getting more people in seats and instead hosting smaller meetings.

“We’re definitely seeing a big trend of organizations launching local and more intimate events,” CMX Founder and CEO David Spinks said in the article. “It creates a more personal and engaging environment, which I think is the greatest aspect of small events. Each person is featured and expected to get involved.”

Tim’s story profiled associations that held multiday meetings for 40 to 200 people—small by most association standards. But what would happen if you cut your attendee list to 30, or 20, or even 12?

For an example an event for 30, check out FemtoConf, which bills itself as “a super-tiny conference for small, self-funded software companies.” The event, which takes place in Germany, isn’t focused on talks and workshops. Rather, it’s all about helping attendees meet people who can help them build their businesses, and the small format allows for meaningful conversation, idea sharing, and peer feedback.

Then there’s Big Snow Tiny Conf, which maxes out its attendance at 12—and that includes cohost Brian Casel. The format for this conference: A dozen business owners head to a ski resort and stay together in a house. In between skiing and snowboarding, they talk business strategy—and give and get advice.

In a blog post, Casel outlined the benefits and value he gets from conferences with fewer than 30 people.  Among them: He builds deep connections with fellow attendees, and he gets space to step back and reassess everything he’s been working on “with help from trusted advisors who’ve gone through or are going through similar paths.”

Offering tiny curated events to your association’s members is likely to deliver some of that same value, as well as help your attendees build relationships that extend beyond the event. And helping them do that is sure to increase member loyalty.

What other benefits do you think a tiny conference could bring to your association? Please share in the comments.

The Big Snow Tiny Conf’s full attendance roster. (Handout photo)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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