Commentary

Facts, Opinions -- And Why Conferences Kind Of Suck

Do you know the difference between a fact and an opinion?

If you look around the web, you see lots of facts and even more opinions.   In today’s cluttered media landscape where anyone can be a publisher, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between the two.  

Back in the day, there was news and there was op-ed.  Now we operate in a world where any person with an internet connection can publish an opinion and frame it as fact.  

There are no regulations on self-publishing, and there is no restraint on virality, so it can be difficult for the general populace to tell the difference.

The same can be said when you sit in a presentation and listen to someone weave a narrative.  The event business has boomed primarily as a result of people offering up their opinions to create discourse and further ideas. However, we rarely ask whether the person sharing their opinions are credible, based on their knowledge of the facts and their authority of opinion.  

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As a matter of fact, too often speakers are paying for the right to share their opinion with you.  The size of the check they write is never the right foundation for whether you should be willing to pay to hear their point of view.

I have curated hundreds, if not thousands of sessions, and I have spoken at about half as many.  Recently I had the honor to speak at a conference that thoroughly impressed me — because its organizers took the time to vet my worthiness to be on stage.  

This process stood out to me because it was so unique in today’s cluttered conference environment, where fact and opinion are woven together and freely offered primarily on a shallow -- or worse, a “pay to play” -- basis.  

If I am paying to attend an event, I should feel confident my money is being well spent.  I should be able to look forward to sessions that will leave me with insights that I can leverage to help me further my efforts, both personal and professional.  If they do not, then that conference should not have my money.

There are too many events vying for our attention because people think they can make money on events by aggregating an audience and selling access to them.  

Unfortunately, this is the absolute reverse of how these events should be created.  Instead, create events with attendees in mind and a hypothesis on how you can provide something valuable for them.  Once you do that, you can determine a path to monetization.  Do something good first and find out how to make a business out of it next.  

This idealistic approach is one I heard twice in the last month from new entrants to the events category, which made me happy.  I was energized by being vetted for a different event and passing the test.  I would probably have been energized if I were rejected -- because it would mean that while my opinions and my understanding of the facts might be valuable, they weren’t valuable enough at that time for that event. That would have been OK, too.  

My advice to you if you are looking to hold an event is to start with creating value before you try to create a business.

If you are looking to speak at an event, make sure you know the difference between facts and opinions, and have a firm grasp of both.

If you are looking to find speakers, vet them and be certain you are offering something of value.  Take the time to solicit your speakers rather than waiting for your speakers to solicit you.  

If everybody does this, and we lose a few conferences overall, the category will be better off as a result.

Of course, this is just an opinion.  Maybe the facts will lead you to a different point of view.

2 comments about "Facts, Opinions -- And Why Conferences Kind Of Suck".
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  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 23, 2019 at 1:08 p.m.

    Sounds like the WH.

  2. Scott Turner from DataLaborTechnology, May 28, 2019 at 5:51 p.m.

    Preach!  People go to events to network and learn something useful, not be on the receiving end of a pitch

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