For four years I directed a conference for church communicators, and I loved providing space for people to step away from their day-to-day responsibilities so they could bump into new people and new ideas. Now that I’m a church communicator myself, I’m even more sold on the opportunity that a conference represents. I’ve been to several conferences over the last few years that have changed the way I think about and do my job, and I believe these five conferences (presented in chronological order) have the potential to change the way you work in 2014.
99U — May 1 & 2
The goal of the 99U conference is simple: “to shift the focus from idea generation to idea execution.” So, if you’re the kind of person with a head or a Moleskine full of ideas, 99U is the event to help you bring those ideas to life. This year’s lineup includes Seth Godin, Jason Fried, Marc Ecko, Todd Henry, and several other creative leaders who make a habit of turning ideas into reality. You’ll pay a pretty penny to attend 99U, but you’ll definitely get more out of it than that Math for Liberal Arts class you took in college.
Expect to come away with enough insights, process improvements, and action steps to turn you from a mere dreamer into an executor.
Luminous — May 6-8
I hope it’s not an oversimplification to say that Luminous exists to tend to your soul. What I mean by that is while Luminous has a lineup of speakers like every other conference, the event is markedly intentional about creating space in which people can connect with God in worship and enter into meaningful times of reflection and self-examination. Luminous is a sort of retreat for the church communicator in which the mind and heart are rested and fed. Oh, and isn’t it nice to experience worship without any responsibility for the order of service in Planning Center or the next slide in ProPresenter? Yes. Yes, it is.
Expect to come away with a renewed passion for God, his church, and your role within it.
Circles — September 18 & 19
Circles brings together “creatives from around the world” and “world-changing thinkers and innovators in both the non-profit and creative community.” In other words, Circles is the only event I know of in which you can find the Creative Director at Twitter, the Communication Design Manager at Facebook, and the Art & Communication Director at Hillsong Church in one lineup. That’s just scratching the surface, of course — the Circles lineup is both deep and wide when it comes to creative people who do great work.
Expect to come away with unique insights into the perspectives and processes of designers and teams that serve millions of users through design.
Brand New — September 25 & 26
Brand New has established itself as a website devoted to showcasing corporate and brand identity work, and so it’s no surprise that the Brand New Conference features voices who are known around the world for their ability to communicate vision, values, emotion, and story through design. As with the 99U conference, you’re unlikely to hear much conversation about the church at Brand New. And yet, this is an experience that has the potential to inform and shape your work like few others can.
Expect to come away with a deeper understanding of what a brand identity really is, what yours could be, and how much difficult, but rewarding work you have ahead of you in your local context.
STORY — October 2 & 3
Every STORY Conference is a unique experience unto itself produced by the ever-dreaming and ever-scheming Ben Arment. STORY is designed for “Creators, Dreamers & Storytellers,” which means the two-day event leans more toward imagination than information. Expect world-class speakers, of course, but those speakers are placed in a curated run-sheet of art, music, performance, projection, tastes, surprises, and environment. The senses are engaged, the mind is provoked, and the heart is stirred — and all in beautiful downtown Chicago, to boot.
Expect to come away with a whole new understanding of the word “experience” and a journal full of ideas, fears, dreams, and questions.
There are many more conferences on the calendar, of course, but I think these five are a good start. Obviously, each is a very different event in its own right, so you’ll have to weigh all the factors before deciding which one (or which three!) are right for you. Wherever you land, expect that your time at any of these five conferences will change the way you work in 2014 and beyond. See you out there!