Halley’s question

Conferences:

Is it me, or are they all getting to feel exactly the same? Same players, same venues, same ideas.

This is why I stopped going to almost all conferences. I learn more from being home, at work, with people—online and off—who are not adopting the persona they use at conferences.

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Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.

4 thoughts on “Halley’s question”

  1. I believe that the networking opportunity afforded by attending a conference is more valuable than the information presented at said conference. But this doesn’t hold for digital personas.

  2. Look, I used to produce conferences, so this is especially hypocritical-sounding, I know. The best conferences are a new mix of people, both on stage and in the hallways, and it is the hallways where the most value happens for most folks. What I see today is that the conferences, for the most part, even the “un-” ones, have catered to the same audiences, which means attendance at one is like attendance at almost all of them.

    In an age when things like Mind Camp and Brain Jam bring people together locally, that’s really interesting, but it is also interesting to get together with people for dinner and just to get together to talk with people. Picking up the phone is cheaper and more engaging than getting on a plane, too.

    Networking is an art, whether when sharing space or just ideas. The letter writing of Jefferson and Adams, for example, who were fierce political rivals and, at the same time, intimate correspondents who knew they could address one another directly to resolve issues–and if that failed, they could use Adams’ wife, another active letter writer, as an intermediary–is a testament to the enduring human activity of getting and staying connected. Einstein wrote thousands of letters.

    But seeing the same people over and over, thinking that because we all agree about where to be every week or so together we can change and rule the world because we’re the In Crowd, that’s a form of delusion. It’s what makes blogs boring, too….

    I’d like to assemble a group of people for an event that changed the world of the participants by creating a new mix. I think PC Forum has kept up that standard, mixing aerospace and IT people last year, for instance. But conference production companies have defaulted to marketing to the same people, buying access to one another’s lists and fighting for the same four or five keynoters. That’s why some of the alternative conferences start out interesting, the question is whether they will stay so.

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