Posts about conferences

Playing Oprah

Yesterday when I led a panel at the Personal Democracy Forum, I gave props to Dave Winer as I told the room that they were the panel — that’s what Dave told me quite firmly at the first Bloggercon — and so I was taking the microphone to the room — the people formerly known as the audience — to involve everyone in the discussion and to organize the discussion not around people (I’m on the panel, you’re not; it’s my turn in the line…) but around threads of ideas. I now see that two days ago, Dave told the story of that Bloggercon. He taught me how to be Oprah and I have used that ever since and, indeed, his has made me a better moderator/discussion leader.

Today, I’m relieved and happy that the PDF leaders have decided to also come into the audience and play Oprah. Perhaps I should have called it playing Winer. A snippet of his story of the beginning of the format:

We reserved a suite of five classrooms and recruited Discussion Leaders (DLs), and tried to explain the format on the phone. I asked the DLs to think of the entire room as a panel. Two of them, well-intentioned, had recruited a few people they knew and asked them to come to the front. I rotated between the rooms, when I saw this, I asked the people in the front to take seats in the body. I made the DL stand in front, and lead the discussion. I remember the instant Jeff Jarvis, for example, understood what I was looking for — he ran with it, as far as I could tell everyone had a grand time (Jarvis is a fantastic DL). By the time the day was over, the format had been worked out, and get this — the hallways were empty! The conversations that used to happen in the hallway were now happening in the conference.

Thanks, Dave.

Us v Us

Amy Gahran and Steve Safran are headed for a group hug as they try to stop the us-v-them time wasting of too many conferences. I agree (and Jill Miller Zimon is right, I am tired of making the point). At the conference I’m holding at CUNY on Oct. 10, I plan to have a gong and the first attempt to attack MSM or blogs gets gonged off. This conference is about action, taking next steps, not about sniping, which is where too many conferences do turn. Wish us luck.

Conference spam, part II

Below, I complained about a conference — I’ll now say it is Streaming Media — giving out my email address without my permission to vendors. And it’s worse than that: Three of them called me at home! I was irritated but now, reading the comment from conference organize Dan Rayburn, below, I’m pissed. He said:

We allow any press member not to have their name included on a list that we give exhibitors, however we don’t allow that for speakers. Since speakers get a free conference pass, get to promote themselves, get to mention their websites, and get in front of thousands of people at the show, on the website and via the webcast etc… we expect them to also give back and allow companies to contact them who may want to meet them at the show. The networking is a big value of the show.

The problem we all face as one person pointed out is that too many PR people send out e-mails to people who are not targeted to their topic. That’s a problem that no conference organizer can do away with unless they just stop allowing people to network with one another.

What crap. They get free content out of us panelists. I didn’t attend a single session. And I have to put up with spam and invasions of my privacy at home? Bullshit.

I don’t think I’ll be streaming media with them again.

: LATER: In the comments, Rayburn, in my view, digs his hole deeper. Here’s his comment. My reaction:

This shows exactly why so many conferences are so screwed up and worthelss. His attitude is that everybody who’s speaking is speaking to sell shit and then he sells tickets to people to be sold that shit on top of more sponsors who sell more shit.

Gee, I thought people went to conferences to learn things.

Why did I go to the conference? Because Rayburn asked me. I viewed it as a favor. He clearly did not.

Why didn’t I go to any sessions? Because I didn’t find anything of interest. I can now see why.

And I find it pitiful that he’s now dragging in the people who joined the panel — as a favor to me. Yes, I made clear before and at the panel that IdolCritic was a production of my new company but there’s no business to be done for it now that the season is almost over. When I invited Black20, I hadn’t invested in it; I knew that J. would be good on the panel. I invited Fred Graver, a real visionary from Vh1, but he couldn’t make it so the conference added someone. I now feel bad that by inviting them, I opened these people to the spam email and calls from the conferences shills.

It is time for conference speakers to go on strike. No speakers, no conferences.

Abandon whining all ye who enter here

I didn’t attend any of the Streaming Media conference, except the panel I moderated with talented people who are remaking TV online: J. Crowley of Black20 (disclosure: I’m an investor), Mary C. Matthews of IdolCritic (disclosure: she’s making this for my video company) and 39Second Single, Adam Elend of WallStrip, and Robert Scoble of Scoble. I ran into Steve Safran of Lost Remote and asked him how the conference was and he shrugged a bit and then explained that he likes the fact that at this conference — as he later said on his blog:

there is no arguing. There is good debate, to be sure. But there is no “us vs. them,” no “blogs are death,” no “that’s not real media,” no “that’s not our core competency” arguments. The open-mindedness of companies here is terrific. Broadcasters need to learn from the entrepreneurial spirit of these folks. They look at emerging tech and see the possibilities, not the limitations.

That’s what we need at newspaper and TV journalistic conferences: A big banner at the door that says:


Conference spam

I’m going to put a new requirement on conference speaking and attendance: no conference spam. I’m at a conference today that clearly gave my email address out and I’m getting tons of unsolicited email.