Conferences as Conversations

Normally, when I attend a conference I try to blog about the different sessions I attend. However, I must admit that my attendance at BlogWorld in Las Vegas, and thus any related posts, has been spotty. I blame this fact on all the great people I’ve met who’ve made me forget the time, resulting in a skipped seminar. However, Las Vegas itself is a crazy town for conferences.

So much of Vegas is wasted on me, but I’m also amazed that conference organizers are anxious to compete with Vegas for the attention of attendees. This train of thought made me start thinking about conferences in general. Why do we attend conferences, workshops, seminars, training etc.? I suspect we want to believe that we’ll learn something, but I think a bigger part of it is the desire to be around people like ourselves, or at least people who understand what we do.

Over the last two days, I’ve had amazing conversations with Marshall Kirkpatrick, Jason Van Orden, and Adam Weiss, to name a few. Their passion for what they do and their obvious talent is so inspiring and a difficult experience to duplicate in a group setting similar to what one finds in a conference panel or seminar. These individuals plant seeds for what’s possible and share perspectives that I’d never come across in a regular day. For example, Adam, a director at LinkShare, very patiently explained the potential value of the company in a totally non-sales, informative way. I may never use LinkShare, but I’ll always be immensely happy that I met Adam and feel I received something valuable from our conversation.

Jane Austen, one of my all-time favorite authors (predictable, perhaps), captured for me how I feel about conversation and people:

My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company. (link)

Luckily, this world I’ve joined has many “clever, well-informed people.” Now, going back to the question about why we attend conferences, I wonder if conference is more accurately a codeword for conversations. Humans have gotten together in groups to exchange ideas for centuries. I’m disinclined to believe that we come together to sit in little rooms and stare at a speaker in silence. We’re coming together to exchange ideas. That’s why this idea of social media and building networks has so much power—it increases the potential to have those all-powerful conversations. You can sign me up any day for more good conversation.



2 Responses to “Conferences as Conversations”

  1. 1 Caleb
    November 9, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    I am with you – I love meaningful conversation.

    There are such gatherings and they are called BarCamps. Here’s the history – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BarCamp. I work at a marketing agency that works exclusively with credit unions. The owner of our company recently attended a BarCampBank (the Bank version is just one of many BarCamps) and said it was one of the most awesome platforms for conversation. Now, I might be butchering exactly how this happens, but here it goes… the group of like-minded individuals gather together and post topics of what they want to discuss. One person will usually champion a topic. They go to breakout sessions on each topic. If you feel that what is being discussed is not adding value, you simply let your feet do the talking – you walk out and join another session. Conversations and fluid and the ideas that emerge are incredible. If this is the future of conferences, then I am in. I want to be at the next BarCamp!

  2. 2 Britt
    November 10, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    BarCamps (and PodCamps for that matter) are an excellent example of how much unconferences have to offer. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to attend. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can in the not too distant future.

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