Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Conferences, Panels, Speakers... getting your time and money's worth

Putting on a conference is a huge undertaking. Having it be a good conference with inspiring speakers, fascinating roundtables, and great networking is even more difficult. So the organizers of this week's Open Source Business Conference should get credit for meeting most of their objectives and inspiring, fascinating, and networking at least some of the time.

Two major places where the conference felt weak to me:

1) Too many gratuitous keynote speeches by event sponsors. Its OK to have a keynote from someone at a sponsoring company, but they have to have something to say! A tired flogging of the sponsor's products and market strategy (especially if the speech has been given before at other conferences... you know who you are) doesn't do the sponsor any good and cheapens the conference experience for attendees.

2) The panel format is difficult at best to pull off. The two key ingredients are a tough moderator and some tightly defined issues that the panel (and audience) can dig their teeth into. Going deep on an issue and really uncovering some great ideas is much more valuable than a skin-deep flyover of a broad set of questions.

Criticism aside, the idea of a conference on Open Source Business is definitely one whose time has come and I am certain that this conference will only continue to improve with time.

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