How NOT To Get The Most Out Of A Conference

Originally posted in the Project Dogfood Website. You should check it out

So you have decided to go to a conference. Maybe you got an invite in the mail or clicked on a banner. Maybe a blogger you like mentioned a show they were going to, or were speaking at, or even organizing (thanks @ChrisBrogan).

You drop some hard-earned cash (whether yours or your boss’) on a conference pass. You checked out the conference agenda, picking out the sessions and breakouts and BoF and parties you wanted to attend. You might have looked at the attendees list (if available), seeing who else in your industry, or region or field of interest is also attending.

With conferences now being net-casted on UStream, decks SlideShared, presentations LiveBlogged and Twittered and Utterli’d, why are you going? The content, the data, the decks, the presentations are all, for the most part available. Chris Pirillo, who runs Gnomedex, UStreams and the archives all of the sessions at Gnomedex. IT Conversations business model was the sharing of conference content (pay to get it right away or wait a couple weeks to download it).

The point of going to a conference is to meet people, to engage, to share your ideas not just consume someone else’s deck. Up until 14 years ago, there was an information imbalance between those who have the information about a subject or topic and those of us who wanted to know more. Conferences were meant to give people a chance to meet and share in real time and real space. Sure there were research papers, monographs, journals and books, but they were physical-world artifacts – you had to have them or have access to them.

It was gatherings/conferences/symposia that transformed affinity to community.

So here are my tips for How NOT to Get The Most Out Of A Conference:

1. Don’t approach this as YOUR Conference. You paid, you travelled to get there, you showed up, you are in attendance, and if you really dont want to get the most out of it, then good for you. You get out of it what you put into it… so give the bare minimum and get just that in return! Rock On!

2. Don’t spend the time to find out who else is going to your conference. Don’t use Summize to see who else is mentioning or going to the show (even though hashtags are wonky doesnt mean you cant track the #conference tag). Don’t check, the Conference website or the blogs of the speakers list. Don’t ping the people in your personal network who are also going. Dont make a list of people you want to meet at the show (I have a bunch of folks who I only know thru twtter that I want to meet at New Marketing Summit).

3. Don’t plan your conference experience. Spending time reviewing and understanding the agenda and looking at who is speaking and when is a great way to make sure you miss something you might enjoy or worse, NEED for your job/business/love of the game. Not preparing will result in lots of “session envy” when you find out how much more fun those guys in the other room had.

4. Don’t bother checking out the blogs and sites of the speakers… it helps you determine which are the sessions you want to attend and where the “gold” is at a given show, especially when you are at a multi-track conference – and no one wants that.

5. Don’t be a critical member of the audience. Don’t bother to ask yourself “is this a pitch” when looking at a conference agenda (at some shows the presenters are up there because their company is footing the bill for the mixer or coffee bar or SWAG bag). Be afraid to “vote with your feet” and walk out on a lame/boring/abusive session/speaker. God forbid you look impolite to people you wont bother to talk to.

6. Don’t participate. Don’t feel comfortable enough to ask questions. Be afraid to challenge the masters of the universe on the stage, especially when you disagree or they say something stupid. Make sure you put these folks on a pedestal, even though they are only human. Chris Brogan, Chris Pirillo and Dave McClure all put on some pretty incredible events and always take the time to talk to and appreciate the folks who show up. But you shouldnt approach them. Uh, uh. No way. Most importantly DONT thank or ask questions of the speakers/panelists after their session. They hate that (they dont want to be there either).

7. Don’t mingle. If you can get most of the content elswhere on the web in the comfort of your boxer shorts, why bother going to a show? Especially when 80% of the experience at a conference is the PEOPLE. Don’t spend time in the hallways between sessions. Don’t walk the floor, meeting people, introducing yourself. Don’t make small talk, trade business cards, join BoF discussions. If at all possible, spend as much time at a conference checking your email, answering voicemail messages, polishing your camera lenses and downloading music from iTunes. DO NOT, under any circumstances try to talk to anyone.

If you DONT want to get the most out of your conference experience, then follow the simple tips above. If you WANT to get the most out of the conference, do the exact opposite:

Prepare for the show, read the agenda, pick your sessions, get to know the speakers blogs, ask questions, talk to people, take notes and share them via your own blog and twitter/utterli/etc…

If you really want a black-belt in Conference-Fu, keep an eye out for the wallflowers and shy folks who are keeping to themselves or aren’t going out of their comfort zone- and introduce yourself/say “hi”/introduce them to someone else. Pay it forward.

Take ownership of your conference experience. And plan to have some fun.

Brilliant – Rules for Media Networking

I first met Terry at Gnomedex years ago. Great guy, really understand the broadcast business and how to get users involved.

This post is awesome:

My favorite:

4. Give before you get. As soon as I meet someone new Iā€™m immediately thinking about whether I can help them, not because I want to trade a favor (I may not need anything from them), but because this is how I would like to be treated by them.

Salaam Garage – Amazing idea, story, presentation & effort

Gnomedex is my FAVORITE conference, and I will keep attending as long as Chris and Ponzi keep throwing this party. This year had the usual eclectic cast of speakers: entrepreneurs, technologists, creatives and media makers. Chris and Ponzi go out of their way to make sure everyone has a great time and this year was no exception. I usually liveblog or shoot video at the event but this year…

My trip to Seattle this year for Gnomedex was interrupted by mild food poisoning, so I missed all of day 1. The Gnomedex team streams each of the sessions/panels/speakers on UStream which then archive the videos. So between the great experience and incredible conversations in the hallways and mixers, you get to relive or share the best of whats onstage.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been watching the videos of what I missed and recently came across Amanda Koster’s presentation on her project, Salaam Garage. An amazing project, Amanda works with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) inside specific countries to develop projects where traveller/media makers can work with the NGOs to tell real, important stories and share them with their communities and favorite digital spaces (Flickr, Facebook, etc.). I guess you might say it would fall under the “documentary tourism” category of adventure travel. Amanda tells the story of her background, how she came up with the idea and how it is going:

Live video by Ustream

I think this is amazing (both the work, the idea and the kind of work they are doing. Amanda also has a book coming out here:

The video is about 40 minutes long, and is the kind of thing you would expect from TED, but we have become used to after years of gnomedex

I am so glad Chris and Ponzi shared this with us (and am TICKED I missed it live).

No updates for a month…

Because I have been crankin on client stuff, twittering like mad (more on that later), facebooking, networking, trading tons of emails, working my neck off for my consulting client, planning one startup and launching the phase 1 of another…

And it has taught me so much:

  • Editorial is not an afterthought
  • Trust is earned
  • “Are we done yet” is not professional
  • Google Adwords, Google Adsense are magic (and Dave McClure is sooooo right)
  • There isn’t enough time in the day
  • Going to the US Open with a friend is more fun than watching it on TV
  • Pretty much going anywhere is better than watching TV
  • You have to be pretty hardcore to compare the NY Yankees to the Republican Party
  • Writing the perfect doc or deck is impossible
  • There is never enough time, there never will be enough time
  • I will be going to Gnomedex as long as Chris and Ponzi invite us
  • MadMen is the best show on television

More to come… couple of launches in the next couple months, interesting project for some of my friends, some travel, helping a couple of clients

Gnomedex 2007 – Wrap Up

So another Gnomedex comes and goes. 3 days in beautiful Seattle (every year the weather is awesome – which is nuts because we are inside all day).

When I describe the conference to my coworkers and clients (representatives from both groups showed up this year), I usually say:

    This is the only conference I will pay for out of my own pocket – every year
    Hands-down the most fun tech conference I have ever attended
    Cool people, fun discussions, engaged crowd, a little controversy and a lot of laughs.
    Chris and Ponzi throw an amazing 3 day party every year

This year the speaker list was kinda thin compared to year’s past. There were a couple of standouts, a couple of Gnomedex regulars and a few new faces. Some were good. Some were so-so. I missed some and caught some.

The Great

I have heard Guy Kawasaki speak before – he was fun, smart, glib (as usual). No great declarations or “a-ha! moments” – except for the fact that I am going to try to beat his record for starting up and shipping Truemors šŸ™‚

Darren Barefoot, Gnomedex Alumnus, did an amazing job of connecting with all of these entrepreneur/business/marketing/social media-types that attended and yet did NOT talk about technology or ways to make money – he brought the Staceys of the world into focus. You can find the video of his post here

Derek Miller touched everyone there with his amazing story of courage and survival while surprising us with his great sense of humor and class. In three years of Gnomedex, I haven’t seen a standing ovation yet – his was deserved. I hope I get to shake his hand at Gnomedex 2008.

Brady’s IGNITE Seattle was fun – 5 presenters with 5 minutes each to give a presentation. I missed the IGNITE event at the CHAC (thanks Kevin!) but it was great to see Dave McClure and Deb Schultz do their thing onstage at Gnomedex.

SOYLENT, um, er, GNOMEDEX IS MADE OF PEOPLE!!!!!! The Hallway at Gnomedex, the Thursday Kickoff-Mixer, The Friday Cocktail Party, the Lunch Tables on Friday and Saturday. Gnomedex is an amazing event for meeting people. From discussing possible business, and meeting guys who you read every day, to finding amazing startups, Gnomedex is an incredible magnet for attracting cool people who GET SH!T DONE. Hanging out with Marc Canter from Broadband Mechanics, Robert Scoble from Podtech, David Geller from Eyejot, Nikolaj Nyholm from Polar Rose, Scott Rafer, Deb Schultz, Renee Blodgett, Mike Tan, the Sawickipedia, Dave Schappell from Teachstreet, Keith Teare, Angel Djambazov from, Adam MetzKarin K, Rachael Clarke, Shannon, the guys from Waggle Labs, Chris Brogan from Video on the Net,, Britt Raybould, Ed S, David Levitt, and a ton of others is really what makes Gnomedex special.

Michael Linton had a pretty interesting talk (for me), but lots of folks in Twitterland werent digging his talk. His slides on Open Money can be found here.

The Not So Great

Robert Steele – very entertaining early. As a fan of all things open (open source, open ID, open architecture, open hardware, etc) his talk started out fun. It went way long, the conversation kinda died (I dont think the Gnomedex crowd knew what to make of him). Someone asked him about aliens.

Sterling D. Allan – the energy guy. Was not a great speaker, had way too many slides, was all over the map, and didn’t really engage the crowd. Alt Energy and Eco-business are two topics I follow, and even I got bored with his presentation. Unlike Robert Steele (who had too many things for us to check out) Mr Allan didn’t really have something for the crowd to hang onto. We all kinda sat there waiting for the raffle for the Wii.

Mahalo Kerfuffle – Jason started off presenting a deck about pollution on the web and it turned into a pitch for his new Search Engine, Mahalo – which is where Dave Winer called foul. Now in the past Gnomedex has had presentations that crossed the line into pitches (specifically the Rubel Weatherbug commercial from a few years ago) and the crowd got rowdy. This is Gnomedex, sponsors don’t get speaking gigs for their money, pitches are kinda looked down on (not sure if they are banned). Was Jason or Dave wrong? I dunno. I was enjoying Jason’s presentation until he got into how Mahalo was going to solve the problem – he should have kept going, engaging the crowd in a dialog and closed with the Mahalo slide or a call for a BoF meeting in the side room to discuss.

The Wifi – it is never great at Gnomedex.

Final thoughts:
I missed a couple of sessions due to the great conversations I was having in the hallways, so I can’t give a complete report on every session like year’s past. This year was fun as usual (as opposed to business as usual). I have yet to go to any conference where everything is perfect, every session rocks, every mixer is fun. Gnomedex is more intimate, more personal, more interactive and Chris/Ponzi try really hard to mix things up. This year it didn’t work perfectly – but it was still great because of the people there.

Every year Chris starts the show with something to the effect of “you get out of Gnomedex what you put into it”. I got a lot out of it.

I have no doubt Chris and Ponzi will listen to the feedback from the crowd this year.

Gnomedex 2007 – Eval and Open Sourcing Clean Energy – Sterling D. Allan

Energy is IT

out there on the leading and bleeding edge of energy tech
we are on the lead and bleed of internet

what we can do – how we empower – the tech on the planet

things could be worse

Need for clean energy
global warming
grid vulnerability (one well placed bullet)
distributed energy
power to the people
applianc-local level

cost of energy – Oil vs Renewable
oil goes up, renewables decreasing
nexus where they are starting to match

competing with grid electricity

ny major renewable could power the planet itself

“the stone age didnt end because they ran out of stone”
new ways of doiung things

dont go to the time we run out before we look for solutions
oil industry bully on the block from technology side

Imagine Universal Prosperity

every time he hears the word impossible “so what” – flight, space travel, medicine

Evolution of ideas – all truth passes through three stages
violently opposed
accepted as self evident

one step ahead of the crowd = genius
2 steps – crackpot

legit modalities with working prototypes

free energy – redefine the field
energy sources that are free
sun, wind, tide, cold fusion, magnet motors

not coming from nowhere – just because you cant see radio waves doesnt mean they arn’t there

dont shut them out because they seem impossible

efficiency and conservation is as important

Gnomedex – Ignite Seattle

Give Seattle more gravity
combo of radar and make

20 slides 15 seconds – 5 min each
7 ignite speakers
mozes voting system

Boston, NY, SF, Beijing,

Scotto – Make Art Not Content
Art that relies on the net as its medium
LOLcats as Art
Threadless – built around artists
money removes from artistic response
What will be the true Sgt Peppers of internet art

Dave McClure


conversion criteria, measurement
conversion metrics

hypothesize what customer lifecycle looks like

Deb Schultz – Start Weaving!

Beth Goza – 3rd Screen
awesome deck

Leo Dirac – VC – how to make millions and keep nothing for yourself

Brian Dorsey –
change the world thru lunch

lunch with someone new every day
start with lunch
instead of voting for me, please blog for me

Elan Lee
Dont be bored
crusade against boredom
we should all be carrying around buckets

Gnomedex – Michael Linton – pshifting money

Shifting money

“Money Jim, but not as we know it”

Shift Happens

phase shift, paradigm shift

BarCamp seattle
first heard of gnomedex

nothis first public presentation – first use of powerpoint šŸ™‚

theory of money – problems and solutions
proactice of money
core reorganization
next steps

pshift (paradigm shift) happens
in its own good times
whether you like it or not
sometimes you see it coming

sometime in the next few years, everyone will be using open money
give some idea of why it will happen

when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change – max planck

logs -> wheels
materials and mass -> function

are we still shifting logs in cyberspace
not talking about what money is

The Theory of Money
the general condition of money – pours in – pours out
issued in volume
in the position of negotiating a zero sum game
primary function of money is it moves

its (money) function is to come and go
when gone its gone
it doesnt come back
value of $ lies in money itself

trouble – sitting between a trickledown and a pour away
coming in thin and going out fast

local aspect of money
making the resources that facilitate the economy where they are needed

Virtual Barrels

level in barrel up and down phenomenon
in virt bank you have virt level
transaction is virtual between two accounts
becomes self managing closed network

size of the system – no information of how big these can get
in millions rather than thousands
smaller the system the higher the reflux, flowback, regeneration – but less variety

look for balance

measure in any unit – time, KhW, and type

rules as agreed – conceive like an email group – rules determined by initiator and those who choose to join

when someone does favor a variety of options
pay off (out)
pay back (stop)
pay forward (away) – gift exchange dissipates and dies – doesnt scale, go far
pay round round)

closed loop currencies – regenerating concept

quasi-tribal economy

1 then 2, 3, 4, 5

neo tribalists do it with requisite variety

DIVERSITY – not locked into one closed loop – multiple
we are in many
society thrives on it

DIstributed – Open Code (of course)
load factors, stability, security

community currencies –
not replacement or alternatives used with not instead of dollars
internet dumb at the center, smart at the edges
tax accountable where tax applies
open not public
not in competition with anything
not impeded or in conflict
business friendly, persistent loyalty, income not discount

loyalty baased on collab rather than compete

SMB adv. over LB, XLB, XXLB

Markets are COnversations
money is the medium

conventional money carries one way
open money carries in others

open money is to normal
as a laser is to a flashlight

when you spend CC$
and they come back
you keep $

Practice of Money – SOlutions and Problems
practice practice practice

phone message recorder account program

do the whole thing for .25 per transaction
no bricks, mortar, stuff, admin – collective timesharing

1985 – Open Source distro
3k startups of this idea worldwide

comp with one program – not that exciting
multicurrencies was their plan
lots said “do one first” – they got stuck as a result

from 92 – multiple CCs by software
in general – open money

development – no cost, regionally and locally managed
community way
smart cards

variant on united way
community way

smart cards – they have smart cards
8k card, 15 currencies, comes from 270mil
stored value
$10k – entire dev cost
POS device – pocket to pocket transfer

Comox Valley – community way, – no coverage in the western world
nothing local – banks radio, no movement
happend in 98-99

Structure of Scientific revolutions
thomas kuhn

perceptioin is reality
no persistent local success
no software to reach long tail

not a lot of breakthrough – stuck, without software to take thru the localization

Core Reorganization
take accounts in namespaces
names grouped in domains/contexts
recursive to N levels
accounts exchanged

Open Money Ontology
Geof Cheshire, Eric Harris Brown
4 entities
accoutns currencies, flows contexts

mesh of lined URI

“churn for the mesh”
cloud of records
cloud of knowing – doesnt mean everyone knows everything – all out there on the internet and can access with relevant permission
relates communities of identity
identity – reputation space – dont piss in the middle of the room
self mgmt thru the hierarchy of domains
being being being

communtiies of action
trade interact, relate, doiung

behavior in currency is YOU – where you matter

Next Steps
waiting for software for 10 years
published spec in 1995

Open Season
USP – very positive
cost of service – next to nil

development funding from applications
cc fundraising models

cost of getting a business on – $100
transaction cost on cards – $0

propogating it can raise lg sums of money local and other
funds itself on the inside

Playing Games
virtual worlds enough and time
virtual worlds communities
“real” world games

LETSplay – the game everyone wins
-tupperware deal
send them to the online game
fundamentally boring

interested in van city – biggest credit union in canada

where it matters
food security
3rd World Development
funding open works

variety to match the challenges

Open Money Development Group
virtually coop
would work faster
contributions welcome

Money – virtual or real
money is the most active social network
whenever we spend money we are voting – what are we voting for?

1970s – entire economy ran on paper endorsed checks for a year – Ireland? – supporting projects collectively

Gnomedex 2007 – Jason Calacanis

Internet’s Environmental Crisis

Cycle of New mediums

consumers embrace

People polluting the internet
SEO, Sploggers, Spammers,

As an industry we are failing the bloggers


Dave Winer – this is conference spam

Podcast Hotel reminds us how Calacanis presentation is a lot like the Rubel presentation from Gnomedex5