On June 10th I presented, for the third time, at the ARMA Canada regional conference. Earlier this year, in April, I presented for the first time at AIIM’s annual conference. The experiences were both positive, but very different. This post isn’t really about those experiences; it’s about a comment I received on the evaluation forms from my ARMA Canada session.
The comment was that I was “preaching to the choir”. Uhm, yeah, I was. The topic of my session wasn’t related to the “why” of information governance, it was about a variant of how to do it. I’d fully expect that the session would be attended by people that already understood why information governance is necessary. That said, I fully agree with the sentiment.
Whether it’s at industry conferences, at vendor events, at analyst events, or on online communities, we (IG / IM practitioners) do spend a lot of our time preaching to the choir. But, it’s not always our fault. And I’m going to keep my focus on conferences …
Pick a conference you’re fond of attending, go back over the last few years’ agendas and pick out what’s really fresh/new/exciting year after year. Not much, really. Even at a single conference you can see tons of repetition, albeit using different PowerPoint templates. So, what are we going to do about it? My guess is not very much, but here’s a few suggestions anyways.
Presenters need to give themselves a kick in the hindquarters to get out of their comfort zones. I’ve got my topic for this year, but I will go on to something different next year, or I won’t bother to submit a proposal. Here’s a thought … try something new that doesn’t just address the latest SharePoint release or, if you’re a vendor, the latest version of your product (new branding doesn’t count).
Attendees, you need to get active in conference planning and let the organizers know what you want to hear and see. I know that some of you are there primarily for the networking opportunities and vendor swag, but the sessions can be pretty useful too. In order to make them useful you need to jump in and provide direction. Here’s a little secret … YOU’RE PAYING THE FRICKIN’ FEES YOU ARE THE FRICKIN’ CUSTOMER!!!
Conference organizers need to do a better job of screening and selecting content. Before you slit my throat, I do appreciate that your lot isn’t easy, and you really do a pretty terrific job. I do realize that it’s not easy to get people and organizations to show up and speak for however long you need them to. But, I’d rather see a two day conference with stellar content, than three days that includes some pretty mediocre content. If you’ve got one session that addresses “the state of IM in 2020 and beyond”, you really have more than enough.
As for getting people not in the choir to attend … I don’t know. But I would start with making sure the content to be presented is appealing to them. When was the last time you heard a CMO say “I am so gonna attend that session on managing documented images as records in SharePoint 2013!”? I’d love to see more attendance from IM beneficiaries instead of practitioners.
As for comparing my AIIM experience to the ARMA Canada experience … sorry AIIM, ARMA Canada wins by a landslide because the session was way more a discussion than a lecture. And the credit for that goes to the 39 people that came out at 8:15am (though some did linger a bit over their breakfast). So here’s my proposal for next year’s AIIM conference: I’ll put up a slide with my contact info only. I’ll field questions, challenges, comments from the audience and we’ll all have nice chat for 25 minutes or so. We can call it IM Improv. Deal? Oh, I’ll also try not to step off any stages this time.
To those in the audience being critical – if you do it the right way, I appreciate it because it makes me better the next time. My contact info is included on every slide deck I use; call or email me to offer criticisms and suggestions. I received some criticism after my AIIM presentation and used it to make my ARMA Canada session, I hope, better. As long as you’re not just being mean I’ll use the input to improve.
Lastly, to those of you sitting in the choir and not singing, get up on stage and join us. I’m certain you’ve got stories, wisdom, and experience that we could all benefit from. The experience is always rewarding, whether it’s by making new connections, learning something, or seeing that “aha” look on someone’s face. It’s hard work and can be nerve-wracking, but it is so worth it.