Enough With the Useless Conferences

As an Industry We Need to Talk Less, Do More

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"Do or do not...there is no try" -- Yoda

The past few weeks this quote (one of my favorite over the years) kept popping into my head. It was inspired by several industry conferences that I recently went to.

Noelle Weaver Noelle Weaver
As I sat in the audience, I often found myself wondering what the role of industry conferences had become. And more importantly, after sitting through several bad ones, why we continue to pay such exorbitant prices to sit in an uncomfortable chair for eight hours each day and listen to people complain about the industry -- then proceed to brag about themselves and the wonderful work their agencies are doing without offering wisdom and advice along the way? It was pretty obvious that many of these folks were on stage for publicity, not for passion.

Let me put it this way: In two of the three conferences I sat in, I took less than a half page of notes (and must comment that, in one, the notes I took were provided by VCU students, not the speakers themselves). I sat through multiple panels of people talking about this crazy thing called "consumer-generated media." I winced when CEO's pulled lists of "cool" websites out of their pockets and could almost tell that they had asked some junior creative team to provide it for them without having ever checked out the sites for themselves. It was even more disheartening to hear the designers say that the advertisers didn't get it, the ad guys say the PR guys didn't get it, the PR guys say the online guys didn't get it. And so on, and so forth.

So, we're still working against each other instead of collaborating? We're talking instead of working towards solutions? And whether online or off, we're STILL stuck on holding up a 60-second spot that forces us to buy something as the solution? How can we create and understand the new models of marketing if we're not taking the time to live in it ourselves? No wonder the consumer is coming out ahead.

I want to make sure that I give a public call-out to Piers Fawkes at PSFK for putting on a truly inspiring conference several weeks ago. The individuals he selected to speak, among them Elizabeth Speirs (Deadhorse Media), Kevin Slavin (area/code), Allan Chochinov (Core77) and David Rosenberg ( JWT), Sascha Lewis (Flavorpill) and Mike Byrne (Anomaly), are the ones really interested in the future of marketing.

It became apparent, very quickly, that Piers had selected a group of individuals that "do" -- people who were passionate, interested in finding new ways of thinking and living the work that they do (and that concerns all of us). It quickly became apparent that people who love what they do have a lot to share and a lot to teach others no matter what their background or skill.

And as I sat there, I couldn't help but wonder where the doers in our industry had gone? The crazy ones? The curious? And the misfits? The ones who make change not follow trends.

Let's stop the talking and waiting for the other guys. Let's stop the industry in-fighting. Let's look to those who embrace what they do and make the most of it and more importantly, learn to embrace that same type of passion and do it for ourselves.
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