Friday, May 27, 2011

What Sucks About Conferences

Memorial Day Weekend is the introduction to Summer....which can only mean one thing....It's Conference Time!!! That's right....the time when your company sends you off to an exotic location to spend 3 days in a conference hall learning about the latest industry best practices. You rub elbows with the experts, make a few new friends, acquire a ton of knowledge....and return home with a hangover and a foam Gieco Lizard for the kids!

I have the pleasure of spending my summer weekends as a 'vendor', presenter, and attendee of several conferences in various industries. My time and practice have helped me develop a rhythm for maximizing quality information intake.

There are 2 distinct types of presenters at conferences:
Those who genuinely wish to educate
Those who grandstand in a effort to push their products

I love attending sessions with dynamic speakers! Those who can keep an audience engaged for 45 minutes and leave them asking for more. These masters of public speaking are few and far between at conferences. Far too often we are subjected to 50 powerpoint slides of bland information hosted by a guy in a suit behind a podium saying ummm every fourth word. This sucks!

Another type of presentation that brings me displeasure is a 'vendor' that sponsors the conference who is afforded an opportunity to present. The session is titled "Strategic Finance Management" - you walk in and see a vendor logo presented prominently on the screen. They proceed to spend 45 minutes going through an introduction of their finance management software.....there is no strategy, no relevant information, and you spend the session trying to find the Geico booth on the exhibit hall map.

There are special events at conferences: Happy Hours, luncheons, dinners, and boat cruises. You want to go back to your hotel and sit at the bar for a half hour before getting some well needed rest but your boss told you that you have to network. You board a crowded bus, get to the Boat, and are bombarded by more 'vendors' handing out logo-ed cups and flashing logo necklaces. As you grab some food and seek an uncrowded place to enjoy your first meal of the day. Then you are joined by 6 young men in matching t-shirts. They proceed to spend the evening telling you about how great their products are and how much they want to work with your company. They give you their cards and take yours.....time to catch a cab back to the hotel!!!!!!!

Then there is the exhibit hall. Your boss has asked you to find an incentive planning partner...there are 46 of them exhibiting. They all look the same and they all have the same approach. Scan your badge, give you a logo-ed pen, and say they will have a salesman call you as soon as you get back home.

After visiting 46 companies that look exactly the same, having your lunch ruined by networking 101 bravado, sitting through a product pushing session, and collecting 923business cards; you finally get to the Geico booth....they are out of foam lizards....FUCK!

As you finally make it to the airport you find an empty bar stool. A nice gentleman pours you a beer and offers you a shot for only $1.00 more. You accept. The thought that crosses your mind as you reflect on the conference...


I've been gorilla marketed to the point that I will have logo sponsored nightmares for months. I sat through sessions that push products without consideration of audience interest. I've given my cards to 100 gel heads that will spam me for months to come....and I didn't even get a goddamn lizard for the kids.

Department Managers: make no mistake about it, sending your Jr Associates to conferences is very motivating! They will do everything in their power to move up the ladder so they don't have to go to that conference again next year!

Don't Forget to Remember!


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