We spent a week at this year's IFC in Noordwijkerhout, Holland in October. We now have someone (Haley Lancaster - here she is on the Coco stand) living in the Netherlands, and the IFC was an opportunity to start talking to non-profits based outside the UK.
Going to a conference as an exhibitor is a strange thing. It's always an opportunity to meet potential clients, but other exhibitors at the IFC agreed that the main reason for attending is usually not that. For some its simply about brand presence, for others it's a place to catch up with existing clients. I think there's something else too, about identity.
I have a particular curiosity about Gestalt and the Paradoxical Theory of Change. As I understand it, this theory of change says that if you want to get from A to B, you'd be best not to head for B as if you're on some kind of journey. Instead you should stay at A and spend your time getting to know it - fully inhabiting where you already are. Then you'll find either you don't want or need B after all, or A as you now know it contains what you're looking for.
Exhibiting is very like this - it really is! Before you go you have to make a statement of who believe you are: sort out your exhibition stand, your marketing material, what you're going to say to people. Then, on each day of the conference, you have to stand behind / in front of / with that statement, and live it. It's different to the daily routine of talking to potential clients about potential projects, and it shifts your understanding of your organisational self.
We're about to make a major shift in the way we organise ourselves, and the IFC turned out to be a catalyst for action, helping us to stop thinking about the changes and start doing them.
Naturally, we had a bunch of generative conversations, too... some of them quite unexpected!