What I Learned From Conference Season II

In my last post, I covered the lessons proffered up to you by Jason “The Prophet” Busch of Spend Matters, Vinnie “The Deal-Maker” Mirchandani of Deal Architect, and Brian “Service Master” Sommer of Services Safari. Today, I’m going to share with you the top three lessons I learned from Conference Season. They are:

  • Big Names Definitely Don’t Mean Big Ideas
  • You Don’t Have to Go to that Many Conferences to Tap Into the Buzz
  • Kill the Left-Suckers!

The two worst presentations, and two I walked out on in disgust, that I attended this year were put on by … wait for it … representatives of SAP (at SCL Canada) and Infosys (at reSource). Just because you have ready-made decks, that doesn’t mean that you have a ready made presentation. First of all, the decks have to be good (they weren’t). Secondly, the presenters have to understand the material (and in at least one case, the presenter did not appear to), and, thirdly, the presenters have to be good (they really, really weren’t). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, only Pierre Mitchell can get away with cramming two-dozen concepts on a slide and still have it make sense. And Pierre Mitchell is also one of the few who can get away with, when he chooses, ignoring the slide completely, or saying the exact opposite of what’s on the slide. If you’re a (p*ss) poor presenter, you can’t. So please, please, please – DON’T TRY!

Any more than three conferences per season, and you’re wasting your time (unless you’re just going to meet up with colleagues and sit in the lobby and network). I’ve only been to two so far, and even before I got through the first, I was thinking “didn’t I just hear this”? Multiply that by three, and you get tired – fast. The buzz, which has a life of its own, travels fast, and you don’t have to go to that many events to be sure of getting it. The key, as Jason and Vinnie pointed out, is to make the most of them when you’re there.

Finally, the best piece of advice offered up this conference season was by Jim Tompkins of Tompkins’ Associates in his presentation on Bold Leadership for Organizational Acceleration where he came right out and handed out the best piece of advice for organizational success that I’ve heard a management guru utter – Kill The Left-Suckers. (Yes, contrary to popular opinion, the best piece of advice one can get is not to kill all the lawyers, because, even though the majority of lawyers are left-suckers, not all lawyers are left-suckers and, more importantly, not just lawyers are left-suckers.) For those of you who happened to miss the original post, a left-sucker is a person who can’t do his (or her) job, and pulls his (or her) manager away from doing what the manager is supposed to be doing to help the individual who can’t do his (or her) job. A left-sucker is bad because when managers are consistently pulled away from their jobs, they don’t get their work done and then their directors have to step in to pick up the slack. When the directors get consistently pulled away from their jobs, they don’t get their work done and then the C-Suite has to pick up the slack. When the C-Suite has to pick up the slack, they aren’t getting their work done, and then the CEO gets pulled into fire-fighting on a daily basis – and instead of the CEO leading the C-Suite in setting strategic direction, he’s bogged down in tactical execution while the company starts burning down around him.

So there you have it. As Jason said, the innovation is there for those who look for it, but as Vinnie would attest, it’s not always where you would expect it; the buzz has a life of its own and you don’t have to go to a dozen conferences to tap into it; and you shouldn’t be afraid of using the axe. (Alternatively, there are hired guns you can bring in if you’re too timid to do it yourself.)