What I saw in the bubble

I spent a weekend at a recent Internet conference. Beyond the traditional networking opportunity and debate, the conference offered us a chance to see new companies do a song and dance, and pick our favourites by Applause-o-meter. The experience translated into something that was equal parts Home Shopping Channel, and Showtime at the Apollo. I half expected to see the Unknown Comic and a gong. It’s yet another sign of these fast moving Internet times. Everyone needs to give their conference participation a little zip or the audience will fall asleep, or jump on a cell phone faster than you can say “proprietary patent pending technology.”

Being the old-fashioned sort that I am, I thought it might be useful to ease conference going and return a certain level of decorum to the din.

With that in mind I offer a guide to effective conference participation:

  1. In order to appear to be a worthwhile or important attendee, you must at all times have a pressing matter that calls your attention away to a communications device or another hallway conversation.
  2. Unless you are Jesse Jackson, don’t try to pull off phrases like “our vision of turning bandwidth into brandwidth.”
  3. If you are going to open your presentation with infomercial enthusiasm: “Hello Ladies and Gentlemen: this time last year I was a kickboxing instructor. You know what my biggest problem was …besides getting kicked and punched in the head?” then you had better follow up with something as impressive as getting kicked and punched in the head.
  4. Have a quick, snappy response to the question “who are you with?” Answering, “myself” will not suffice.
  5. If your company is presenting itself to the public for the first time at the conference, and is given only 6 minutes in which to do it, immediately explain the purpose of the company in the simplest language available. A pantomime will not do.
  6. If in doubt about the specifics of your company or business model and you must entertain, simply hold a pep rally for money.
  7. If you wish to give an assessment of an “average” consumer opinion, segue into an amusing anecdote about your wife, mother or child’s Internet experiences. Everyone in the room will nod silently in agreement, knowing that civilian women and children are the authorities when it comes to genuine life experiences.
  8. Show no surprise that all of the speakers are white men. Mentioning this fact and chuckling while a Latino waiter fills your glass on stage shows extremely poor taste and gives an unfair impression of the homogeneity of the appointed authorities at the conference. After all, Ann Winblad will be speaking later.
  9. If you are offered the opportunity to deliver a keynote address to the conference, and have nothing new to say, appear via some form of two-way satellite delivery.
  10. If you are going to name your venture “the leader” in a particular realm, or hold a launch party for your web site, company or product, your credibilty will be greatly enhanced by actually having launched it.