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Conferences, or why I’m going to the IAEWS gathering in October – and you should too

Conferences can be a mixed bag. Sometimes you go and are dazzled by the information, presentations, and people – and other times, you find yourself wondering what else there is to do in town.

I’ve been to several IAEWS conferences – and I can honestly say that, while they don’t always blow me away, they always leave me with useful contacts and information. Perhaps it’s inevitable – put 100 or so of the top folks in the job board industry in one (or maybe two) hotel conference rooms, feed them sweets and caffeine, and see what happens. Talk is what happens – and lots of it. Sure, the formal presentations can be useful – but conversations with other participants are what makes or breaks a conference, in my mind. One of the highlight’s of this year’s JobG8 Job Board Summit was a 2-hour networking/cocktail session – I think it could’ve gone on for another 2 hours if time had allowed!

Things are changing this year at the IAEWS conference (which by the way is being held in Chicago). It starts with a session at a nearby bar (which seems like a good way to get people talking), then resumes the following day – but with a big twist. IAEWS has stolen a page from Bill Boorman’s TruConference book – they are running it as a ‘un-conference‘.

So what is an ‘un-conference’? From the IAEWS website: “Here’s how it will work: Instead of the traditional agenda of speaker after speaker, it will intersperse each presentation with an equal amount of time where attendees will have two options.  They can either adjourn to one room and participate in a discussion with their peers on the topic of the presentation or they can adjourn to another room and network with friends and prospective business partners.  At the conclusion of that discussion/networking period, they will return to the plenary hall for another presentation or panel and then the discussions and networking will begin all over again.

Different? Yes – but I think it is likely to succeed. I’ve attended one of Bill’s un-conferences, and was impressed with the level and quality of interaction. The most common problem? There were too many conversations to get involved with them all! That’s a nice problem to have.

So I hope you consider joining me at the IAEWS conference in October (and also the JobG8 conference in December). I know I’ll come ready to talk – and listen!

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