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.”

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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