Why Are Conferences So Often Bad?

July 31, 2013

After describing the sort of speakers you often get (and regret) at business conferences, this post gives the following trenchant and amusing advice:

Those are the speakers to consider avoiding. Who are the ones to look for? Retired CEOs and retired politicians are often good value because they have deep insider knowledge but are usually no longer motivated to conceal the truth.

Academics can be good because they usually do genuine research to support their arguments. The downside is that they can be dull and pedantic.

Successful small entrepreneurs are often priceless. So are some kinds of nerds, for example the ‘growth hackers’ who tackle big data issues and possibly control the future of marketing.

Then there is you. If you are invited to speak at a conference for the first time and think you might not come up to the mark, quit worrying. Remember the words of my co-passenger in pinstripes: “Most conference presentations are completely [expletive] boring. How can yours possibly be any [expletive] worse?!”

It’s written with retail in mind but I’m sure it’s much more general…


Hack Away The Unessential

July 26, 2013


Picture credit and further info: here.

With the ease that you can accumulate interesting information as well as network with people these days, it’s very tempting to get drawn into this.

However now and again it’s also good to have a stringent review to see ‘where’s it all going’. Although this is often not a simple question to answer (see here), asking it is very worthwhile.

I tend to do this every 3 months and am often surprised at the build up of bits of projects. The poster above reminded me that I need to get into the habit of doing this at least weekly and, in some cases, daily.

“You can do anything, but not everything” – David Allen

The Digital Divide, Olympic-Style

July 22, 2013

From The Independent on Sunday, in an article on Lord Coe

What we did not know then was that the man who masterminded the greatest hi-tech sports event in history was a techno philistine. Lord Low-tech, as he calls himself, doesn’t tweet, has never sent a text or an email, or even used a computer. “I have no technical skills at all – my lack of technological understanding is legendary,” he laughs. “I use a phone as a phone.”

Now the British Olympic Association’s chairman, he recalls how a few weeks ago he was in a hotel abroad where, to his absolute horror, everything was operated by iPad. “I slept with every single light on, the television going, the air-conditioning blowing. I kept thinking: ‘Oh please, someone just give me a fucking light switch!’ At one point I tried to sleep in the bathroom! It was the only room that didn’t have 27 lights on!”

On this theme, there are some figures on the digital divide in the UK here, including:

  • 1 in 4 adults in the UK have never used the internet
  • £560, the amount digitally excluded households are missing out on per year from not shopping and paying bills online
  • a third of households in the UK don’t have the internet

More On Clients And Customers

July 19, 2013

From Seth Godin:

Customers hear you say, “here, I made this,” and they buy or they don’t buy.

Clients say to you, “I need this,” and if you want to get paid, you make it.

The customer, ironically, doesn’t get something custom. The key distinction is who goes first, who gets to decide when it’s done.

The provider is rarely better than the clients he is able to attract. On the other hand, the creator often gets the customers she deserves.

I’ve written on this interesting and important difference previously, see here and from another angle here.

The Value Of Design

July 15, 2013

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

Pecha Kucha Events

July 12, 2013

I came across this idea as it was used as part of a recent conference (my emphasis in bold):

PechaKucha 20×20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images.

It’s a way to get people to focus on the key aspects of their work/ideas as well as allowing a large number of speakers/viewpoints. It’s all over in 400 seconds, so no problem if one or a few of them are dull or irrelevant!

Obviously presentations need to be reasonably visual as well as textual (the original idea was aimed at creatives). I’m still amazed at the number of people that write lots of text on slides – so annoying – I guess they’re just too scared to write less.

It might be interesting to combine this type of event with a conversation cafe or similar to amplify any new ideas. Interestingly, it draws its name from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation (“chit chat”).

There’s a good explanation of the origin of the idea and how it’s used on the PechaKucha FAQs. Here are some extracts:

Was PechaKucha the first format like this?

That’s a good question. We have all heard of elevator pitches, a presentation so short you could pitch it to someone in an elevator. 20 seconds x 20 images is a bit longer than that, but the idea is the same: short, concise presentations. As far as we know, PechaKucha was the first to put a limit on the number of images and number of seconds — and the all important auto-forward. There’s no “next slide” or “go back one, please” at PechaKucha Nights

Is PechaKucha Night like TED?

Many people have said “oh, so you’re like a local TED!” A very nice complement, but not quite right. TED is brilliant, but very different to PechaKucha. TED is top down, PechaKucha is bottom up! Deanne the hooper, Astrid’s daughter, or Mark’s mum could not present at TED, but they had awesome stories to share at PechaKucha Nights.

Is PechaKucha Night a social network?

We believe there is nothing social about online social networks, so get out from behind your screen and get to a live event, with real people, real communication, real beer, and real creative fun. So in a sense, we are in fact a “real” social network.

Ignite (where people are given 5 minutes and 20 slides that auto-advance) is very similar. The main point is that there’s a strict time constraint.

Thinking About The Future

July 10, 2013

“The purpose of thinking about the future is not to predict it but to raise people’s hopes.” – Freeman Dyson (physicist)