My last editor’s letter sparked plenty of feedback from readers, with the majority agreeing they want to listen and learn from expert speakers at conferences and not be forced to be part of the program.
In this editorial I said that when I attend a conference I want to listen and learn rather than tweet, ask questions, or worse still, listen to inane questions from other delegates.
“No, you are NOT old fashioned,” said Eugene Doma of Dez Artz.
“What you wrote about should become the “new” conference style guide. I’m a small business operator and thus the cost of travelling to a conference comes out of my meagre profits,” he says.
“I come to listen and learn from the speakers. I’m very annoyed when somebody gets up to ask a question and drones on and on about something only tangentially related. If they have something worthwhile to say, then they should get in touch with the organisers and pitch to earn a spot on the program. I don’t know who they are, and don’t care. So it is bad enough that the question is inane, but to listen to them waffling is an insult.
“When watching people at the breaks, I notice that those that hog the question time are in general avoided or hang out with the cronies from their organisations. That tells me that I’m not alone with the above observation.
“It never ceases to amaze me how big the gap between keynote presenters and the general program presenters is. Whilst substance should trump style, I prefer it when the two are harmoniously enjoined. Like I said, when I’ve spent thousands of dollars of my hard earned profits, I demand to get value for that money.”
General manager of venue sales and marketing at The Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland, Sue Hocking, is equally incensed with the current presentation trends at many conferences.
“It annoys the heck out of me when I am at a conference and someone gets up and asks a lengthy question which we all struggle to understand and often forget the beginning of the question by the time he or she finish their oration. I also like to listen to an expert and learn,” she says.
“I pay to go to a conference to listen, so hear hear,” said eventplex managing director, Natalija Gajic, in response to the editor’s letter.
“I feel exactly like you about conferences,” said BDM Constructions’ Michelle Charron.
“In fact, I often don’t attend due to the fact that I don’t want to participate in group work or suffer through a question time, and no, I don’t even want to stand up and introduce myself.
“And like you I like the old school way of the presenter being on stage doing what they do best… presenting!”
But not everybody was in agreement. Ring A Ding Promotions and international hosted buyer, Ian Morrison, said while he empathises with my “lay back, open wide and enjoy approach”, the trend is now the opposite.
“Conference goers come equipped with BYODs and expect action,” he says.
“Lots of them are switched off from lazy presenters short on humour, totally lacking in charisma and often crap at PowerPoint! I don’t blame the 30 somethings for looking for tweets, checking blogs and interjecting when the main event is patronising, second hand and `whaffly’.
“Sorry Brad but there are few really motivational, in-your-face, let’s make eye contact and send them home with a memorable quote/joke/ditty [speakers] or whatever. Go with the flow or take a sicky!”

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