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Here are six ways organizers of the SYMC designed the event to leave the conference inspired, educated, connected, and engaged in ways that will enrich themselves and their organizations.
3. Affinity Groups/Relationship Building
“I have gone to a lot of conferences where I’ll see a person once and never see them again,” says Ostrander. “We try to make it so that you will bump into any given person at least two or three times within the course of the conference.”
Building relationships is a critical component of SYMC, so Ostrander and his team attempt to foster connections by design. It starts with the venue, where they keep everything in close proximity so that sessions, and people, stay together. The JW Marriott in Indianapolis, site of the 2013 event, fit the bill.
Ostrander had just returned from doing some research at the South By Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin. While the two events are vastly different in size and content, one of the most impressive things about SXSW, he says, is how integrated the city is into the conference. “The integration between hotels and restaurants and venues is unbelievable—every restaurant has a SXSW menu.”
Also, SYMC has created affinity-based groups called Connect Groups, which bring people together by areas of interest. At registration, people are asked what Connect Group they want to join. They include groups for attendees who work with middle-school students, one for those who work with high-school students, and one for spouses of youth pastors. These groups meet two or three times on their own over the course of the conference.