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This conference tackles the Church’s biggest opportunity

Sam Hailes reviews this year’s Premier Digital Conference

You don’t get a first impression of someone when you meet them face to face. That happens when you Facebook stalk them beforehand.

You don’t blind-book a restaurant, you check the online reviews first.

You don’t read as many books as you used to. Instead you end up watching hours and hours worth of footage on YouTube.

The Internet revolution has arrived and it’s changing everything from the way we shop and bank to how we pick our holidays and how we access the scriptures.

There’s arguably no bigger opportunity for the UK Church than this digital revolution. It has huge implications for how we evangelise, how we advertise ourselves and even how we pastor, disciple, and build community.

There’s something about looking someone in the eye and having a real life face-to-face physical conversation that’s good for us

That’s why for the past 5 years I’ve spent many a cold and rainy Saturday in November inside a Brewery. Not drowning my sorrows about this fast moving and sometimes bewildering revolution we are living through, but joining hundreds of others at the Premier Digital Conference to hear expert speakers discuss everything from the theology of AI to the practicalities of how to start a Podcast.

The Premier Digital Conference has become one of my favourite events of the year. But I know what you’re thinking. “Sam, you work for Premier, so of course you’re going to endorse their conference.” Well here’s the thing - I’ve been attending this event for years before I did any work for Premier and I’ve been continually singing its praises from the beginning. Why? Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

Keeping up with a changing world

If we’re agreed that technology is changing all of our lives at a rapid pace, then my question is why wouldn’t a Church leader send themselves or their team to a day long event to think about if their website/social media/podcast etc is working as effectively as possible?

We know the UK Church (generally speaking) is struggling to attract millennials and young people. We also know these demographics are “digital natives”. They spend hours of their day online. They can’t even comprehend what the world would be like without the internet.

So PremDac isn’t merely about helping you create a flash website - it’s about evangelism. It will give you tools to reach the unreached – not just digital natives, but anyone who owns a smartphone (that’s 46 million people). Of course, better digital engagement alone won’t turn the tide of secularism. But it is a vital area that all Christians need to think through.

And as if the conference isn’t enough, there’s even an awards ceremony in the evening, giving due credit to hard working individuals and organisations working in this world (full disclosure: I was awarded runner up Young Blogger of the year back when I was young...)

Face to face connection

This conference is an ideal place to network and learn from others experiences. Sometimes there’s a perception that online connections aren’t real. I don’t believe this is true. On the contrary when I’ve met people I’ve previously only interacted with online there is often a real connection and rapport.

The event also gives you the opportunity to meet the real life person behind the avatar – including those of whom you may have previously clashed with! I’m continually amazed at how well I get on with the people I’ve crossed swords with online. There’s something about looking someone in the eye and having a real life face-to-face physical conversation that’s good for us. So if you’re the shy type who’d rather hide behind a keyboard, come to the conference and get out of your comfort zone. It will do you good.

Another top reason to go is the format. There are no lengthy boring talks that you might find at ... *ahem* “other” Christian conferences. Presentations are short and snappy, seminars are interactive and thanks to the Twitter hashtag (which trends UK wide) everyone can have their say.

Tech conferences have been known to cost £800 just for a day ticket (I know!). Yet this event, which features a variety of speakers (from Lego to the Church of England!) and is held in a state of the art conference facility in central London (complete with complementary coffee and, more importantly, WIFI) costs a mere £39.

You’d be mad not to book.

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