Episode 27 – The Balkanization of Tech Conferences and the Long Tail of SWAG

Inspired by  Jimmy Ray Purser’s perspective on how vendors now seem to run the technology trade show circuit, your humble Geek Whisperers tackle the topic of neutrality at conferences and all that goes with it.


We were thrilled to be joined by incredibly intelligent Technologist and frequent event attendee Jay Cuthrell.

We end the day with some questions we’d love you to answer:

  • What are you attending?
  • What aren’t you attending?
  • What is your favorite conference and why?

And without further ado, here is the unedited conversation we had during the show.

[11/1/13 3:10:20 PM] Amy Lewis: http://blogs.cisco.com/?p=129393
[11/1/13 3:12:06 PM] John Troyer: Vendors
Varrow Madness, etc.
Open Stack
Neckbeards – communities of practice
Industry Associations
Structure, Velocity
Gartner, Constellation, … Investment Analysts
Truth in IT
Gatherings of Love
Good Second-Tier Conferences
IT Summit, Business partner thing
Crappy Second-Tier Commercial Conferences
Sell you out
[11/1/13 3:12:35 PM] Jay Cuthrell: The Balkanization of Tech Conferences and the Long Tail of SWAG
[11/1/13 3:14:13 PM] Matthew Brender: You must have social at events, but do you have to have events to have social?
[11/1/13 3:15:50 PM] Jay Cuthrell: You can lead a techie to a bar but you cannot make them pay for drinks.
[11/1/13 3:26:33 PM] John Troyer: It turns out i have no idea where we’re going
[11/1/13 3:32:57 PM] Amy Lewis: Projected outcomes: peer learning/training, sales (aka trade show), smart people/thought leadership
[11/1/13 3:33:07 PM] Amy Lewis: Which events work?
[11/1/13 3:33:33 PM] Amy Lewis: TED talks vs Real Estate Sales
[11/1/13 3:39:04 PM] Jay Cuthrell: Cloud Connect (pay to play) vs. Cloud Camp (unconference)
[11/1/13 3:46:19 PM] Jay Cuthrell: http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-way-to-make-the-most-out-of-the-2011-SXSW-Interactive-Marketing-and-Technology-conference/answer/Jay-Cuthrell
[11/1/13 3:54:24 PM] Jay Cuthrell: The Peanut Butter Manifesto (of corporate marketing)
[11/1/13 3:54:39 PM] Jay Cuthrell: (don’t spread yourself to thin…)
[11/1/13 3:56:50 PM] Jay Cuthrell: Gordon Gekko doesn’t go to WallStreetMegaVendorWorld 2014 — “Come on pal, tell me something I don’t know”
[11/1/13 3:59:17 PM] Matthew Brender: This message has been removed.
[11/1/13 3:59:51 PM] Matthew Brender: that thumb was freaking me out..
[11/1/13 4:03:03 PM] John Troyer: final thoughts – or was that it?
[11/1/13 4:03:31 PM] Jay Cuthrell: YES YES YES YES
[11/1/13 4:03:43 PM] Jay Cuthrell: self organizing 🙂
[11/1/13 4:04:07 PM] Jay Cuthrell: we’re all autonomous peers flooding our neural networks with lulz
[11/1/13 4:16:26 PM] Jay Cuthrell: there’s an eager zero thick joke in here somewhere

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  1. LaurenMalhoit
    20 November, 2013

    Can we compare tech conferences to choice of big or small colleges/universities? Usually people pick a group…even if they change groups they’re still in a smaller sub set. This smaller group could be really into all sorts of tech and you could learn a ton from the people you network with…or you can just choose to hang out at the same frat and drink the same beer. I’d like to think my IT conference choices are different than my actual college choices =)

    • 21 November, 2013

      Love the analogy Lauren! I’m playing with the parallels to see if it tells us more.

      What do you think it could mean to those asking “what show should I attend?”

      • LaurenMalhoit
        21 November, 2013

        I think if people are asking that question they might be “beginners” anyway…so attend any show you can! This is kind of my second year attending conferences. I get value from Cisco Live, VMworld, and EMC World…but I also have had some awesome times attending Tech Field Day. No matter which show you’re at, just try to have good conversations. I’ve had some of the best conversations at local vBeers, too. I know that’s not a great answer, but I think you just have to try it before you know what’s right for you.

        People are going to take away different things from different conferences. I would recommend trying everything you can…if you don’t like the big ones “transfer out.” Try a smaller one or meet some new folks. Try to talk to people who aren’t just drinking the koolaid.

        • Amy Lewis
          25 November, 2013

          Great and thoughtful answer. And I also love the analogy. No one form of networking or continued education works for anyone, and I do think there’s a continuum from local user groups to the biggest shows. They are predicated on the same idea and mission. If you find that it’s all about pitching and not education, and that’s not where you’re at, find other venues.

          Some might even say podcasts and other content creation outlets build community and educate. 🙂

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