Why conferences suck (sometimes)…

Dave Winer has an interesting perspective:

I had lunch yesterday with Steve Gillmor. It had been too long. We talked about many things, including the fact that neither of us were going to many conferences this year. I think I’ve only been to three so far, maybe four. I’ve had the opportunity to go to dozens. But they’re all the same, you spend the first half-day saying hello, then have a couple of good conversations, then you run out of things to do.

This morning after a bit of processing, it struck me — don’t know why I didn’t see this before, but the problem with most conferences is that except for the people putting it on, we don’t have enough to do.

So once the first hellos are over we settle in with our laptops and do what we do when we have nothing to do at home or the office — we browse around the web, answer emails and IMs, and otherwise look for something interesting or new.

I agree this has definitely been the case for a lot of the conferences I’ve attended – particular those “industry” conferences or tradeshows, typically at the NEC, Earls Court or in Docklands.  A quick walk round the stands, catch up with colleagues and networking contacts, go to a couple of seminars, and that’s the event done.  

The one conference that has always stood out for me has been Lotusphere, a full-on 7am-11pm 5-day long festival of all things Lotus, with something going on at all times, whether essential seminar sessions, the tradefloor, labs, certification, BoF sessions, Speedgeeking or one of many adhoc networking sessions (mainly in the restaurants and bars about the location).  I simply couldn’t imagine not being at Lotusphere in January – the impact on my year would be massive…

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!