Conference burn out

OK, it’s official. I’m burnt out as regards conferences. My flight was over three hours late last night, and our pilot told us just before we took off that had we been another 20 minutes later, we would not had enough fuel to get to Vienna, so he would have had to cancel the flight. Instead of thinking ‘Wow, that was lucky’, I found myself feeling cross, and wishing that Air Traffic Control had held us just a bit longer, or that the weather had worsened, so that I could just get back on the Piccadilly line and go home.

Instead, Lady Luck saw fit to ensure that I didn’t get to Vienna until 2am, and didn’t get to my friend Horst’s place until nearly 3am. I am, as you can imagine, a bit tired.

I’m also not impressed one little bit with the programme at BlogTalk Reloaded. There are lots of great speakers… in fact, there are too many. With no slot longer than half an hour, and a distinct lack of breaks, I am wondering how I am going to last. In fact, I know I am not going to last at all. I haven’t had a proper meal since lunchtime yesterday, I didn’t get dinner last night, no breakfast this morning because we had to rush to get here in time, we have a 15 minute break at 12:30, and lunch is not until 1.45. My talk is just before lunch. If I can string a sentence together at that point, I will be lucky.

I have to ask, for exactly whose benefit was this programme put together? As a speaker, I feel a bit miffed at only getting half an hour, because it’s not really long enough to get into the interesting detail of what I have to speak about. I will either have to talk fast or cut stuff out, and either way I’ll feel like I’m short-changing everyone. (And no, I’m not going to come over all falsely modest to say that I’m not interesting enough for a full hour. I’m bloody interesting, actually, and I believe that I’m not the only one here who’s bloody interesting.)

Half an hour also doesn’t give time for questions. Half the fun of talking is having a chat with the audience for the last 15 mins… oh, wait. Now I’m really pissed off. I don’t get half an hour, I get 10 minutes. I spent all that money, and went through all that pain for 10 minutes? I work for myself, so I have to pay for my own flights, there’s no nice business slush fund to pay for me. The whole point of coming to these conferences is to raise one’s profile in order to get more work. Networking is a big part of that, but so is having the opportunity to prove one’s experience and express one’s opinions from the stage, thus giving people an understanding of what you do and who you are.

10 mins gives no more than a snapshot, and frankly, had I known I would never have bothered.

Their format is this – two 10 minute presentations and then a 40 minute chat afterwards in small groups. Now, I’m all for chats, but would rather do that with everyone here (there are not many people here so it would be more than doable).

I thought last night that I need to put a moratorium on conferences for the next few months, and this experience just emphasises that I need to not book in any more conferences for a good long time.

UPDATE: I complained to the organisers, and they have changed the format so that myself and the other person talking this hour get half an hour each, with no ‘open space’. I do appreciate this, and I hope it will make for a better experience not just for me but for the audience. All I have to do now is not pass out or fall asleep.

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