Always New Mistakes

May 24, 2010

Death to the rock star conferences

Filed under: Conference — Alex Barrera @ 12:39 am

I know, I know, a long time since I last wrote here 😉 Well, been quite busy lately, but today I wanted to write about something I’ve been seeing lately. I usually attend multiple international and national congress throughout the year (LeWeb, SXSW, etc.) and one of the single most annoying trend in all of them is the lack of good speakers.

I’m not talking about the actual talk but what speakers say during those talks. Most of the times the one giving the talk is the most prominent person from that company, let it be the CEO, COO or PR spokesman. Problem with this is that, except in few rare cases, most of them already have a very mature and trained speech that bores everyone. They usually talk about something we don’t care or already know…

Which brings me to the point that, in many cases, it’s much richer to talk with the people who do the day-to-day work in those companies instead of the top executives. For example, I’ve experienced much cooler talks over dinner with Google engineers than what you usually get watching Marissa Mayer. The same is true for companies like Twitter, Facebook, etc.

In the end, those unknown persons are different from the usual PR stuff, much open to discussion and in most cases, they answer all your questions if they know them. Also, they talk to you about their projects, the next cool thing they’re building, or even the way they see the company in 5 years from now.

Other interesting persons are unknown startup guys. We always keep reverting to the usual rock stars. The reason to some extend is clear, they attract more public and that means more cash for the congress. Nevertheless, in some cases (more than I would like to remember) it’s because the organizers truly think these people are the best speakers they can find. What I’ve seen is that the nÂș4 or nÂș5 startups in a given niche are also as good or even more when it comes to give a talk. In my opinion it’s because they haven’t reached the bullshit PR level (I should talk about that sometime) yet so they speak freely about what they are doing, what problems they have (which they usually share with the top startup in their niche) and how are they trying to take the top spot.

In conclusion, I would love to start a new type of conference where we should bring unknown speakers to talk about cutting edge things. You will always have some rock star on board, the reason is that, some rock stars are REALLY good. People like Gary Vaynerchuk

from Wine Library TV or Toni Hsieh from Zappos come to my mind and are incredible speakers. Hope I could say the same from many others… This would be known as “the unknown conference” where you could feature like a 10% rock stars vs 90% “unknown” (unknown in the sense of not a rock star) speakers that would cut to the chase of what the audience is really wanting to hear.

Ah, just one final suggestion for this conference, round tables will be prohibited except if moderated by a crazy person that’s willing to ask really hard ball questions. Most round tables just suck big time… lets change that!

PS: Yes I do know the paradox I’m proposing here…


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