For a glimpse at what’s wrong with most technology conferences – and why IT managers don’t attend them – you have only to listen to this podcast of a session called The Future of Search from the Supernova 2006 conference.
I don’t mean to pick on this session or this event. I have great respect for Chris Shipley and several of the panelists. It just happens to be one good example of a sin I’ve seen committed repeatedly at scores of conferences over the years.
Here you’ve got a great topic and people who are well-qualified to discuss it. But they ruin the opportunity BECAUSE THEY CAN’T STOP SELLING. In one five-minute segment I chose at random, I counted 26 references to “we,” “our,” the product name or an insult aimed at a competitor. In fact, Technorati’s David Sifry was the only panelist who talked about the future of search outside of the context of his or her product.
It’s ridiculous. Presented with the opportunity to discuss a weighty, important issue and to look smart, informed and visionary in front of an influential group, the panelists do little more that deliver advertisements. They look foolish.
Perhaps this plays well to the audience of investors and journalists who hang out at this type of event, but it’s an example of the reason you never see CIOs in the audience. They know that a panel stocked with vendors is going to be one long sales pitch, and they have entirely too much of that in their lives already.
Marketers, please don’t do this. Don’t force your executives to be “on message” all the time. Give them a chance to show what they know and to enlighten their audience. Let them admit that their competitors have good ideas and build on those ideas. Let the audience trust them. There’s nothing that undermines a speaker’s credibility faster than engaging in the kind of embarrassing behavior that you see in this all-too-typical session.