Conferences are a Waste of Time

speakerYou might be like me and hate conferences. But, is that a good enough reason not to go? Perhaps not. So lets flip it and assume you love going to conferences. Is loving them enough of a reason to go? It might be for you. (You know that you only go to conferences because you love them if the highlight of your entire year is the conference itself.) But suppose you wanted to convince a conference hater to go and to do so you had to come up with other reasons why you go different from the fact that you love them. What would those reasons be?

Conference Lover (CL): Conferences are great for team building and community.

Conference Hater (CH): If you only see a group of people once a year at a conference and not at any other time during the year, they are not your team nor your community. If you do see them regularly throughout the year, why have a conference?

CL: There is great teaching.

CH: If you own an iPad and have an internet connection, you literally have at your fingertips access to the world’s greatest teachers on any subject at anytime throughout the year.

CL: Networking!

CH: Assuming that networking refers to meeting people who have solutions to the problems you’re facing, why would you wait for a conference to hopefully meet someone? Why would you not actively pursue meeting the right people throughout the year?

CL: It’s a great time to get away from it all.

CH: Like a vacation? My vacation time is limited and I’m not going to spend 80% of it in a conference hall.

CL: Your presence at the conference signals your loyalty to the organization.

CH: Hah! Next….

CL: Vision casting from the leaders — seeing the bigger picture.

CH: I’m not fumbling around with no vision for 360 days of the year only to find it at a four day conference. Besides, you don’t want to make any major decisions for your life while being hyped up at a conference.

CL: You don’t want to be independent do you?

CH: My dependance rests on those close at hand and in my day to day life. And their dependance rests on me.

CL: Conferences are fun, encouraging, and essential for your success.

CH: If the single subject of the conference were something that I was very passionate about, like a particular theological theme, or Christian education, or blacksmithing, then I might go to be educated or for fun. But as soon as the conference is advertised as something essential for my success, then I know it will neither be fun nor essential for my success.

CL: ……

What else would you say?

Here is what a tolerable conference looks like (but probably still a waste of time):

  1. One very specific theme which directly relates to those in attendance. No general themes like “Leadership” or “Moving Forward!”. (Read my article on Andragogy, linked to below.)
  2. The conference is kept small enough so that it can be interactive throughout. Can an attendee ask questions, or provide input? Or is the room too full of people for that?
  3. Two or three days long maximum.

“The best kind of ‘conference’ is going on vacation with a small group of your smartest friends.” ~Naval Ravikant

Related reading: A Critique of Conferences; Andragogy (Adult Learning)


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