Every now and again I'll get asked to give a presentation at some industry event or another, or to write a blog article.
Such requests never fail to massage my ego, regardless of how loudly I tell myself that I'm only being asked because:
- they asked everyone else and have been turned down, and
- there's a gaping hole in their program/editorial calendar that they need to plug as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Ego-boost goes into overdrive when the person doing the requesting feels that they actually have to sell the idea to me. They'll talk about size of the audience/readership, demographic or psychographic profiles, monthly traffic and Page Rank. However, the truth of the matter is the very fact my point-of-view is deemed worthy enough to share with someone's audience is usually reason enough to get me on board.
If you've read many of my posts or articles, or heard any of my presentations, you'll know that I'm not one to pull punches. If I think an idea, concept, or company is full of bovine excrement then I'll say it – and say why.
A few years ago this sort of thing was frowned upon more often than not. Conference organizers wouldn't want to risk a presenter upsetting a sponsor, for example. Today it seems that the mood has changed somewhat, and – within reason – the more upfront and 'out there' a presenter/blogger is these days, the more they're in demand.
So the presenting/writing sales pitch that I get often includes something along the lines of "…basically, we've all become fed-up with all the "BS" that's floating around."
Pardon me for asking, but aren't you guys the ones who continue to book the "BS" merchants in the first place?
The King's New Clothes
If you're a conference organizer, or in charge of a publication, there's a problem that you tend to run into time and again. The problem lies with all those presenters that pitch themselves as some kind of bleeding-edge industry oracle, spouting-out the current flavor-of-the-month product, methodology/process/whatever. They'll use big words and seemingly inappropriate metaphors to describe something (doesn't actually matter what). Or maybe they'll be some weird-looking graph in their slide deck somewhere that looks kind of cool, but no-one really understands.
However it's dressed-up, the punchline is that someone's given airtime to an idea or position in such a way to gives the impression that they're a chapter ahead of where you and I are in the book that all of us are reading.
But the bigger joke is that, just as with The King's New Clothes, pretty much everyone in the room will nod and agree rather than contest what's being said. We're all too scared to challenge what's being passed off as fact because we think everyone else "gets it" and we don't. It's like the first day of school all over again.
It's only when the cabaret's over, when the video projector's turned off and everyone has retreated to safety of the bar, are we treated to real, raw opinion. However the very people who will question a speaker's presentation when there's a gin and tonic in their hand seem to be only too happy to rate the same presentation highly on the conference feedback form. As a result the speaker's presentation is seen as being held in high regard, which in turn leads to them being invited to more gigs – and we're back at the beginning again.
Fresh Minds, Fresh Faces, Fresh Thinking
Have you noticed how often you see the same, tired old faces on the presenter billing at industry events? And its because it's the same people doing the rounds again and again is the reason why you'll rarely hear anyone raise their hand to challenge the claptrap. "They can't be talking rubbish as they speak at so many events," you say to yourself. "It must be me. I just don't get it."
If you've been in your industry for any length of time, you will have heard the mantra-of-the-moment from the self-appointed soothsayers/futurists/thought leaders. "Such-and-such is dead, I tell you!", they'll preach. "Jump on this bandwagon NOW, or tomorrow your job/business/industry will be irrelevant!"
But we've heard this song before, haven't we?
Paul Delaroche was wrong when he said "From Today, Painting Is Dead", after seeing a photograph for the first time. After everyone predicting its demise over the past twenty years, Amazon says that sales of vinyl records have grown 745% since 2008. Publishing is dead. Advertising is dead. Social media is the only way to grow your business. If your organization isn't cranking out YouTube videos every week you're going to be bankrupt by the end of the year. Optimize your website for mobile devices or no-one's ever going to marry your daughter. Yeah, whatever.
Why won't we get up – and speak up – against these people spouting misinformation, and maybe even disinformation? We are we so darn frightened to speak-up against such loudmouths?
But more importantly, where are the new voices?
- The people who aren't afraid to go out on a limb, even if it opens them up to peer ridicule.
- The people who are prepared to speak their minds rather than their company mission statement.
- The people who aren't afraid to go against "common" thinking.
- The people who challenge the status quo, but will also defend your right to maintain it.
Dear editors/community managers/conference organisers: If you're really fed-up with all the BS, then stop being part of the problem.