on conference events

Seth Godin makes an interesting point in "saying thanks in a conference presentation." He writes,

Not only is this a total waste of time for most attendees, it doesn't even satisfy the core objective, which is thanking and rewarding the folks who helped. And it certainly doesn't encourage others to look forward to helping out.

It seems to me that conference organizers know almost nothing about organizing conferences; they seem to lose sight of any of the conference objectives. Conferences are usually designed around papers delivered by speakers yet they often don't provide printed proceedings and they typically do not provide support for the speaker--such as the ability to see the slides without turning around.

Maybe that's why conferences are often so expensive and yet so poorly attended.

Alas, organizers seem to focus mostly on the logistics and the exhibitions. They get everything in the right place at the right time and they make sure that the sellers have a place to hawk their wares. But in my experience, these organizers  do a poor-to-fair job of promoting the conference, do a poor job of supporting the speakers, and do a poor job of supporting those who attend.

Perhaps that's why "unconferences" were born. Rather than suffer a glitzy but empty traditional conference, people who are actually interested in the conference topics have started their own conferences. Many of you in the Austin area participated in the Austin ProductCamp last month. I'll be speaking on The Strategic Role of Product Management at Agile 2008 in Toronto next month.

If you are a conference organizer, actually watch the sessions at your next conference. You'll see dozens of ways to improve the experience for the speakers and attendees.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.


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