I’m afraid I’m becoming a conference curmudgeon. I often return home from event industry conferences disappointed. I love seeing everyone face-to-face, but am disappointed in the education and the trade show content.
Expo! Expo! was no different for me. I do not however regret going. The reason being I got to meet so many “friends” I’ve made online over the past couple of years. Social media has birthed several great friendships and professional relationships for me but it’s the face-to-face meeting that solidifies everything. It’s actually quite odd when you meet people in real life that you’ve been conversing with for so long on social media and via email and phone. You forget for a moment you are actually meeting them for the first time. I have to say, the people I met last week in real life are even better in person than they are virtually.
But here is where I’m left lacking. The show floor was eh. There was nothing bad about it, but there was nothing great. It was a bunch of rows of a bunch of booths. Other than that, not much was going on. Kudos to Expo! Expo! for providing several spots for attendees to sit and chill out and recharge their electronic devices. It made meeting up with friends and colleagues very simple. But quite frankly I expect this and think they should do more.
For example, I love The Expo Group’s concept of Continuing the Conversation on the show floor. I encourage you to check this out. Emilie Barta does an awesome job as host/virtual emcee for this event within an event. It provides the audience that could not attend the show access to the exhibitors and speakers. We need to be doing more things like this on our show floors.
The one session I really enjoyed with the joint IAEE/SISO session on Tuesday morning. They had a panel of legal experts addressing several different topics important to the conference owners. I’ll take two or three hours of free legal advice any time I can get it. In this situation the panel worked for me because it was specific expertise being presented. They did an excellent job and did take questions and comments from the audience. Although I will say they did scare the bejesus out of me a bit.
But the rest of it just didn’t excite me. I did not see any topics that were groundbreaking or that I could not learn more by reading some articles and books on the subject at my leisure. Sessions covered topics such as social media, project management, exclusive contracts, goal setting, marketing strategies, mobile apps, etc. The same stuff they talk about at every industry conference over and over again. Sure social media is new to some folks but it’s just a communication tool, it’s not earth shattering. In my car ride home from the airport I was listening to a BBC broadcast about the 2011 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting. There they were talking about measuring the deepest part of the ocean and discovering a planet orbiting another sun that is much like Earth and could contain life. This was pretty groundbreaking stuff. I checked their schedule and they also had some social media workshops but that was just a blip amongst the vast amounts of new discoveries. They also had a great mix of presentations that addressed different learning styles.
I will say that IAEE brought in an interesting keynote speaker, Dr. Michio Kaku who presented “A Lunar Expo – Fact or Fiction?” Sadly I missed it because it was not included on the mobile app. It was also way too early at 9:15 am when the opening night party was the night before and everyone was hosting after parties. Not the greatest of scheduling.
I’m not saying the education at Expo! Expo! was bad. Clearly a lot of people got a lot out of it. It just wasn’t my style. When I’m at a conference with a couple thousand of my peers I want to talk to them and discuss topics and come up with creative solutions with them. I don’t see a lot of value in sitting in a room with 20 or 100 of my peers and only hearing from one person at the front of the room or even a panel of people for 75 minutes. But perhaps I’m in the minority or just one of the few who are committed to this style of learning and idea exchange.
Expo! Expo! did have a roundtable discussion session but it was competing with eight other more traditional sessions and some of those sessions had the same topic of the discussion groups. We had just as many attendees as we had discussion leaders. This was very disappointing to me because there were some great discussion topics and some great discussion leaders. However, no skin off my nose because I had some great one-on-one time with Rick Calvert of BlogWorld where we talked about how to increase attendance at our events and event blogging and content. Personally I was dumbfounded that his table was not packed with people. Are we so ensconced in our industry tradition that conference organizers who’ve not come out of our industry don’t get any attention. I love people like Rick. They have an interest, they want to get together with like-minded people but their is no conference that exists, so they make one up. Apparently no one told Rick you have to be a CEM and/or a member of SISO, IAEE, PCMA, ASAE or NACS before you can think about doing something like that. WAKE UP! People who have never heard of these organizations are putting on very successful and interesting conferences. They are doing new things and they are selling out of registrations. And they are not CEMs.
I recently read a blog post by Phil at Think Brownstone and I think he’s on to something. Maybe from now on I’ll go to a few of our industry events for the networking portion and stay away from the education sessions that don’t engage. For my education I’ll attend conferences outside our industry to get my creative juices flowing. See what’s new and exciting that attendees are really loving.
What about you, do you find our industry events innovative? Is it just me?
After reading John’s comment below I just could not help but adding this video on what happens when a woman has an opinion of her own. Clearly it shows how she becomes unattractive or “unbecoming”