The Problem With Blogging Conference Speakers- Revisited

Editors Note: The post below originally ran here. A few years later I think we are still facing some of the same challenges as before. Some conferences are populated with large numbers of the same attendees and speakers year after year because of financial concerns.

Not everyone can afford to attend or speak. Finances play their role and in some areas so does the buddy system in which people work together to make sure their friends are part of the club.

This is not meant to be a blanket indictment of all bloggers/speakers/conferences/brands because that would be unfair, wrong and inaccurate.

But it is worth taking a hard look at what is going on and asking who is benefiting, not because we are trying to out/expose anyone but because there is value in trying to figure out how the system works and who benefits.

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The problem with blogging conference speakers is that we expect them to be experts on a particular topic and most of the time they aren’t. We sit in our chairs and hope that at least one member of the panel will be able to shed some insight and distill their words of wisdom and oftentimes it doesn’t happen.

It doesn’t happen because they aren’t experts in the field. They don’t necessarily know more than you do about blogging and how to be successful at it. Sometimes they are far less capable and talented than you are but the difference between them you is that when the call for speakers went out…they answered.

They stood up, raised their hands and said that they would fill a time slot. Bully for them and boo for you.

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You can call this Digital Envy if you wish. Blog Envy is real and every time I write about it I receive a ton of feedback. In part that is because bloggers love to talk about blogging but this isn’t about that. This is about my frustration with conferences that require a substantial registration fee to go hear people who aren’t experts in the field speak about it. I can’t say that I blame the speakers for volunteering their time. If you are trying to build a name for yourself this is one way to do it. You gain good exposure and you obtain a new line for your resume.

My grandfathers would have told me that this is all narishkeit and they are probably right. Narishkeit: (nar-ish-kite) foolishness (a nar is a fool) Why should any of this matter to me and is there a real reason for me to care.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Teddy Roosevelt “Citizenship in a Republic,”Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Old Teddy, he of speak softly and carry a big stick fame is correct and I am duly chastised. It is easy for me to poke holes in the fabric of the conference, to complain, critique and comment upon the shortcomings. It is harder to answer the call for speakers with a 500 word essay on what I want to talk about and why it would be a mistake not to include me in the line up.

And the beauty of hindsight is that it allows me to say that it was a mistake not to solicit a spot forBlogworldLA. I could have done so and I didn’t and I take responsibility for that but that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that there is a problem with speakers. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that some people are filling space nor does it mean that I am envious.

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There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Essay on Self Reliance- Ralph Waldo Emerson

And lest you think that I take myself too seriously I would have asked the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain to open up for me. I would have told them to play the theme to Shaft and then walked up, cool as can be and begun speaking.

Or perhaps I would have opted for this one

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And with a little bit of luck and some hard work I would have shared words that would have moved you. There are stories that I could have told and slides that I could have shared but it is not going to happen this time around and the only one to blame for that is me.

But that is the beauty of blogging. The chance to share our triumphs, failures and teaching moments with ourselves and our readers. We only get so many somedays so the best we can do is make tomorrow today.

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