After stopping by the HBS Tech Alumni event last week (“Business in 2010″) I concocted some laws that should govern all future confabs in the Valley. In my short time on this planet, I’ve been to quite a few conferences (and their more informal/networking focused brethren, “confabs”) as both an attendee and speaker. Here are the first three laws – I hope the list can expand to make everyone’s time at these events more productive.
1. Ditch the Panel Format – This is one of those things where Seth Godin would say: “Think of how it’s always been done, then do it differently.” The notion of panels being an effective way to communicate ideas has always puzzled me. Experts should be on-tap, not on-top. In the spirit of “Popular Education” (an area I’m learning about) the *people* can have both the questions and answers. Panels are dead – it’s time to have a facilitator and opening the intellectual feast to the masses.
2. Force Every Presenter to Use Beyond Bullets Principles – Although I think panels are dead, I think a guy or gal who really knows their stuff should be given 15 minutes to educate the group. But, if they dare use a PowerPoint, they should swear on their life their presentation incorporates Beyond Bullets principles or else they should be tomato’d off the stage.
3. Structure the Networking Opportunities – It can’t be that hard for people attending an event to provide a bit more info than their name and company name. Each attendee should be required to answer 5 questions about their interests, people they like to meet, etc. A basic algorithm should match up people so when a person arrives at a confab for that networking hour they have the names of a handful of people they should seek out. Also, right before the structured program begins, EVERY person in the room should get 10 seconds to announce on the mic who they are and what they do. Even if it this takes 20 minutes, it will multiple the networking opportunities for folks tenfold.