Is there a perfect kind of conference?

Since I’m involved in organizing one in May, my eye always gets caught by any mention of what makes a good conference versus a bad one, which is how I wound up reading Euan Semple’s post on his blog The Obvious, about a forum on blogs and society that he is attending in May. In it, Euan (former head of knowledge management at the BBC) says that he has grown wary of “being taken advantage of by commercial conference organisers,” and was also concerned about “being associated with yet another money-spinning, bandwagon-joining, pointless exercise.”

As are we all, Euan, as are we all. That’s why I keep writing about how with mesh we are trying to create something part-way between a traditional conference and an “unconference.” Can’t get enough of my thoughts on that topic? Here’s another one. I think Euan and I share a similar thought — that boring, stale, PowerPoint-filled conferences are useless, but also (as he puts it) that he’s kind of irritated by “a small group of people who have attended mind-boggling numbers of conferences… over the past four years in the US getting bored with themselves and declaring conferences dead.”

And what would a post on conferences be without a reference to Dave Winer? Euan includes in his post a reference to the fact that the idea of an unconference “wasn’t invented by Dave Winer,” and gets a comment from — naturalement — Dave Winer.

Update:

My fellow mesh organizer Mark Evans has some thoughts about the perfect conference too, and so does Stuart at the mesh blog and Mike. We may not hit perfection but we’re certainly going to try 🙂 Stowe Boyd, who is coming to mesh, says he isn’t tired of conferences, he’s just “tired of tired conferences.”

10 thoughts on “Is there a perfect kind of conference?

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  5. Stu : The trackback is not working on Evans site too..

    Matt : PPT was the the main meta “attention”engine of the late 90’s na early 20’s. But now particpants don’t need lipservirce rather a discourse. IMHO, the market is the discourse. without it there is nothing.. I once Asked Tom Peters what he thougth of slides vs non slides and he sez, he prefers throwing only a couple of words on a slide that lead the way for thought provocation which then permits him to infuse conversations and create a two way path. His first Expereince of this type was in one of his fame conferences of Brazil where his 1 hr slot become a 3 hr slot, because the people where asking questions. albiet to the annoyance of the organizers.. but he is tom peters and at 40K a pop, he can do what he wants..

    But the point is simple. The world is getter smarter –ppts just dont cut it anymore !!

  6. Coffee and WIFI. You can dispense with one or the other but having either is a nice touch.

    I agree that PPT is over rated. Last presentation I gave I had a set of PPT slides ready but .. they were talking points for the talk. Which is a _good_ thing because the overhead was missing so I made do without.

    The talk degenerated (or evolved) into a nice bull session. We would have been there for hours (fen will talk anything to death) but the room was booked after our session.

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