Heather Green from Blogspotting fame reflects on her experience at the Syndicate conference, where she faced the same harsh situation encountered by all panels and speakers nowadays: competition for attention from other sources of information/engagements leading to the bizarre impression that you are addressing a sea of laptops.
Yesterday I was on a panel at the Syndicate Conference here in NYC and it was odd. Looking across the room, I was treated to the sight of people bathed in blue light, busily peering into their computers. It reminded me of when I was in school and I actively ignored the teacher during class.
Maybe people were blogging. Or maybe they really had no interest in anything I or the other folks on the panel were saying. But that doesn’t make sense, because why did they chose to be there then? Either way (and I know folks have been complaining about the whole conference culture) I don’t think there is anything inherently bad about a conference structure. It’s a good way to bring people together. But if the problem is interaction or a desire to get more out a conversation, doesn’t it take two sides to address that problem?
I am speaking and attending a large number of events and conferences, to the tune of 20% of my time I would guess, and since the world does not stop moving when I attend Demo, PCForum or a Microsoft VC Summit, I need to continue interacting with my companies through email, IM and SMS. It essentially forces speakers and panels to be more interesting and engaging than what is in my email, TechMeme, Wikio or my feedreader(s). Not to beat an old drum, but the best way for a panel to grab the attention of an audience is to get into a conversation.
Is this behavior rude ? Probably for now, but in a world of continuous partial attention and extensive crackberrying, it will become less and less noticeable.