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The Home for the Conference Bag
The Home for the Conference Bagavailable on my flickr

It’s time to do away with the silly conference bags and the wasted trees contained within. The whole concept is so, 1980-ish

I may get some organizational dings for this, but I am compelled to complain once more about the staleness of the educational conference format. Somebody please sticka fork in it.

This League For Innovation “Innovations 2005” conference drew 2400+ folks to New York City.

The “League” (it always feels like there should be automatic trumpet calls when i say “The League”, like it is the “League of Extraordinary Colleges”) seems not to have changed its conference format since their first one I attended in the mid 1990s. To me the feeling of innovation is still lingering back a decade or more, like a high school jock at the 30th reunion still re-enacting the winning tocuhdown.

The conference program (only available on the web as a large PDF download) even has the same exact layout as every previous conference I’ve attended. Now the format of that is not a big deal, but the format of the conference is the same too. There are about 30 sessios per hour, so folks are spread thin, lofty keynotes, the obligatory exhibit hall , and lines of people queing up to read email.

The cheesy conference bag stuffed full of glossy brochures? Mine is on its way to the dump. Wasteful. The 3 pound conferenc program? Hopefully recycled into material to create park benches.

But mostly, the staleness is that still the lecture is the primary paradigmMark Millison who actually speaks like a person, not a teleprompter reader, and tells stories, reaches the audience. But Mark cannot be the whole show.

I attended a session yesterday where the presenters actually read the PowerPoint slides, not just the bullets, but even 2-3 paragraph quotes that were on the screen. I am sorry, but it seems less than optimum to travel 2000 miles to have someone read to you something you could absorb by reading offline in 1/4 the time.

Edward Tufte points out the information density of PowerPoint content is already rather low. To me, it drops off the table when someone reads it to me.

The 50 minute session slots (the school bell rings?) rarely leaves any time for sufficient dialogue, conversation, the meatier stuff. It gets shoved in the breaks and the hallway talk.

And still, too many presenters (IMHO) put way too much background and blah blah before the demo. Start with the demo.. Grab our attention. Engage us.

And the session evaulations, still done on paper, requiring some poor underpaid drones to type it in, and return months later to the presenter. We’re nearly all carrying wireless devices and there are rows of PCs lined up with people who travel across country to read their email…. why not use ’em to collect data?

But maybe the web, where I get to choose, skim, skip, dig deeper on my own terms, has ruined my attention span.

And do not even get me going about the issue of the presentation rooms lacking Internet access for presentations (unless you desire to pay $700). I cannot believe it is not available considering broadband is in every guest room.

I’m ready to take a pass on future conferences that are built on the successful formulas of the 1970s. After all, we are not still wearing leisure suits and big bouffant hair-dos.

Yes, I am ….. well, you read the title.

Update: It gets worse- there is a vendor sponsored e-mail wire labeled as “as 24-hour email and wireless access”. I asked if the wireless was open or if I needed a network access name…. Neither, I cannot use my wireless equipped laptop with their set up, it is only for the set of laptops they provide. So there are people lined up to use a wireless laptop. I am more perplexed and amused than… sleepy.

The post "I’m Bored As Hell And I;m Not Gonna ……. zzzzz" was originally pulled like taffy through a needle's eye at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2005/03/im-bored/) on March 7, 2005.

1 Comment

  • Blow up the conference paradigm!

    cogdogblog: I’m Bored As Hell And I;m Not Gonna ……. zzzzz From the corporate and government side: Elliott Masie is promising to blow up the “junior-high” model of conferences (e.g. a big assembly at the start followed by block schedules…