I volunteered at the Push 2008 business conference earlier this week. Overall I give it a mixed review. Some things went well, others were less impressive.
Some of the good things.
- Good speakers and performers. There were few flameouts, everyone knew their stuff and presented well. I really appreciated the musicians and performers that were on the program; it helped to liven up the days.
- The venue. The Walker Art Center rules. The Sculpture Garden is beautiful. The restaurants and evening spots were great. I just wish they’d used more of the Walker gallery spaces.
- For me the overall signal to noise ratio was low. Maybe I’m just not part of the intended audience. I felt like a lot of what the speakers said was old news. The environment is in trouble, the poor are all over and their condition is not improving, America’s economy is in trouble, global brands are spreading around the world by focusing on personalization, digital literacy is a valuable skill. When I hear people saying this conference changed their life I worry. Are these people living in the same world that I am?
- This wasn’t an “unconference.” The core of an unconference is audience participation. Push 2008 had zero audience participation, except for short question and answer sessions at the end of the day. I’d recommend ditching half of the speakers involved and using the time to do an Open Space style meetup. This could amplify the really useful parts of the conference - meeting other people - and help the audience to create solutions in addition to learning about problems.
- Get out of the auditorium. We’re in the middle of a beautiful new museum. Let’s get into the galleries and look at the art. Or start talking about the issues we’ve been hearing about. The galleries could serve as spaces for people to meet in smaller groups based on topics coming from the open space ideas.