The conference season is upon us. I have three to attend, one of which I am chairing. As I start to plan the schedule which of course conflicts, cope with the nightmare of choosing a wardrobe in unseasonable weather, I began to conjure up conferences past.
I love a good conference, emphasis on GOOD. The networking can be fantastic as it’s a joy to catch up with colleagues from the past and make new connections. There are always opportunities to learn and share information. There are however, a couple of things for me that spell the difference between a great conference and a rubbish one. The first is venue.
Having done my time camping, hiking and basically living it rough on travels in my youth, I have no desire to have the same experience in the hotels that I stay in.
Just because we are in a recession doesn’t mean I have to sleep in hair sheets or accept poor standards. If we can’t afford to have a decent hotel and venue then cancel the conference. Don’t make us turn up to grotty hotels and conference venues that can't do the job, go without until there’s a little money in the budget to do it modestly but effectively.
Most importantly are the speakers, I have been privileged to see some of the best in the world, David Ulrich, Jim Collins, Greg Dyke and so many more. Often they are not big names but people who can tell a story brilliantly and who are willing to share their triumphs and disasters equally. There are also the other type of speakers who should not be on any stage, their various sins are many from selling their wares, using a 100 PowerPoint slides in a 20 minute slot, boring the pants of everyone, I could go on.
Some of my favourite speakers can be seen on the TED lectures. TED are a non-profit organisation devoted to sharing ideas from a range of areas. Their guidance to speakers should be put into conference law. Here it is and let's hope our speakers at conferences to come follow it to the letter.
Thou shall not simply trot out the usual Shtick
Thou shalt dream a great dream, or show forth a wondrous new thing, or share something thou hast never shared before.
Thou shalt tell a story
Thou shalt not sell from the stage, neither thy company, thy goods, thy writings, nor thy desperate need for funding lest thou be cast aside into utter darkness
Thou shalt remember at all times laughter is good.
Thou shalt reveal thy curiosity and thy passion
Thou shalt freely comment on the utterances of other speakers for the sake of blessed connection and exquisite controversy
Thou shall not flaunt thine ego. Be thou vulnerable, speak of thy failure as well as thy success
Thou shall not read thy speech
Thou shall not steal the time of them that follow thee.