Tag Archives: Arts conference

You want young? Start listening! Audience development for arts conferences…

Due to funds, I am only able to go to one conference a year.  I hope this changes in the future.  I love being a part of conferences since the energy is contagious, and I am able to meet some fantastic people. If I were invited to speak at one of these conferences, I might have said…

Twitter has been so incredible for following conferences around the globe. Hashtags have become priceless in this respect.  I am glad I can be a part of the conference experiences, even if I am a fly on the Twitter wall.

The recorded keynotes have also been helpful.  Recently I was watching the final keynote for the League of American Orchestras conference, A Call to Action by Clive Gillinson. His actual speech begins about the 30 minute mark.  I loved what he had to say since it was forward thinking.  Become a part of the community and ask what you can do for them rather than what can be done for your organization, etc.  However, the delivery, the presentation and how he was dressed, was very formal and old school.  I tweeted that I wanted to see him in a Hawaiian shirt, or something equally bright to be in fashion with what he had to say.  I also have been thinking that in order to “get outside of the box,” perhaps we need to let our hair down more at these conferences instead of being so gosh darn formal.

Which brings me to the “You want young?” part of this post.  We all need/want younger audiences, right?  Many times, at these conferences, we hear from the older generations.  Very few conferences have younger speakers as a main event.  Are we listening to our younger generations?  Are we allowing them to get their viewpoint across to us?  If we want younger audiences, maybe we need to start listening to our younger participants.

This means that having a few keynotes presented by the younger generations would be most helpful.  I am all for learning from the experienced, but the younger generations have experiences to share as well.

In general, I do not feel we are listening to the younger generations as much as we could.  We attempt to figure out what they want, but are we really listening to what they want? Are we listening to their perspectives?

Perhaps we are afraid that what they want is something we would not like to offer.  Perhaps the older generation is afraid that they will no longer be valued if we allow younger generations time on the soap box.  These are fears we need to overcome if we truly want to be relevant to younger demographics.

GenY has personal experiences to share that are full of creativity and positive energy.  Why limit their share time to a breakout session?

GenX, being the oldest of the younger generations, has an interesting perspective and most are not afraid to share what they think.  They can be brash, but rather refreshing.  They can serve as a wake-up call if we allow them to speak to the general assembly.

The other younger generations rather participate than sit quietly with hands folded in their seats.  They will, however, listen to peers.

Conferences can be valuable for the sharing of new ideas, but in order for us to move forward, perhaps the conferences need to be more forward thinking in how they present and who is chosen to speak.  All generations have something special to offer.

I hope in the future to see more diversity in our conferences if this is what we are truly striving for. I am grateful to see some exceptions, but for the most part, older white guys are still ruling the roost.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists



“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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