This notion of “thought leadership” is one of the most often touted reasons for attending, speaking, sponsoring, and otherwise getting involved in industry conferences. As we’ve explored in over dozens of examples, producers of these conferences range from independent organizers, to an industry leading company, to a trade association, to a public think tank, to a business society club. But the world of academia stands as a distinct category of producers of these thought leadership events, because both in format and in intention, conferencing blends right into the lines of what the academic world does on a day to day basis.
The college I went to at NYU was a very career oriented college called the School of Professional Studies. We specialized in the hospitality industry and our professors, programs, and academic conferences, were all as such focused towards the hospitality industry. Business schools do offer more non-academia presence in their conferences than more academic programs perhaps, but even so, every conference that SPS runs is in part a platform for our professors to take part in either moderating the panel or speaking as part of the panel.
Universities though are in my mind perhaps the most natural fit for being producers of conferences. Speaking strictly for the world of business schools which is the only higher education world I happen to know, universities are the natural producers of the talent pool entering into the local workforce each year, and it behooves the companies as such to become involved with these local universities to understand their perspectives. Even in cases where influential professors are able to bring in professional colleagues in the upper upper echelons of their industries, or when these upper echelon people agree to an interview at their alma mater in front of just a classroom of students, the university itself serve as a most natural conduit for bringing people together to engage in thought leadership.
When we did our previous exploration on media companies producing events, I theorized that the advantage of media companies is that they have the enormous production advantages of having a built in audience — their consumers — and a built in sponsor base — their advertisers — and in some cases perhaps even a built in database of speakers for the news channels that frequently conduct interviews or the magazines that frequently produce industry lists or enlist guest contributors. An influential media company producing conferences just becomes a natural extension of their existing business, which is why nearly all the big media entities ranging from Bloomberg to Forbes to CNBC to Vanity Fair and so many others are doing their own conferences.
Conferences produced by universities may not have the same clout behind them as those done by media, but in many cases they are no less influential in terms of the people they can attract. Particularly for a school like NYU, a top university that also happens to be based in a top business city, the business conferences our business schools produce are no less important in their respective industries than any of the best conferences out there. Universities have that element of thought leadership built into their brands. In the world of event production, having any one of the 4 frontiers covered for your production needs — audience, content, money, staging — could be a competitive edge that makes or breaks the production.
See you at the next exploration!