Tag Archives: conferences

Soularize 2011

This came from Spencer Burke of TheOoze yesterday.

Soularize 2011 in San Diego, CaliforniaIt’s been almost 10 years from the first Soularize in Seattle, and we’re exciting about hosting another learning party in 2011. As usual, this event will unite both traditional and non-traditional teachers, artists, theologians, thinkers, and social activists.

This year – sunny San Diego!
October 12-14, 2011

Save the date and plan to join us for one of the most unique experiences of your life. If you’ve been to a previous Soularize, don’t miss this 10 year reunion event. If you’ve never been before, you won’t want to miss it.

We’re partnering with an incredible church in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego to put on an incredible event that will cultivate a thought-provoking and spiritual experience while introducing a wide variety of ways to connect and grow with others on the journey.

Didn’t Soularize start a year earlier than that in in Los Angeles?  Whatever the case, San Diego in October looks inviting.  Update: I am planning to be there.

When the church runs out of ideas.

Aha! We are fresh out of ideas

How many times have we seen this format in the last couple of months.  TED, Christianity 21, the Nines, a couple other copycat conferences that have numbers in them, now this.  A copycat conference with the same speakers, peddling their wares in a fixed format.  Tell me again where the fresh idea is?  C’mon.  There are better options out there than following the latest trend.  It gets embarrassing again.  Especially when it comes from an organization called “Leadership Network”.

I am waiting for a conference on helping evangelical clergy deal with their addiction to conferences.  That is one I would go to.


Last week Nathan Coloquhoun wrote this on conferences.

I’m tired of big monster churches, leaders and organizations not caring about the small and insignificant.

It’s everywhere. This conference has been going on in the States for the last few years. It’s called Q. It’s a play off the TED conferences, and generally I think it’s a good idea (we may or may not have something up our sleeve that is in similar taste). Except, I’m annoyed because it is invite only. I’m annoyed because from what I can tell it costs $625 to attend (Last year was $825 after early bird deadline). I’m annoyed because only the “remarkable leaders” will be there. There is so many things that annoy me about this type of idea that I want to get out of conference organizing all together.

I was going to reply but I didn’t have the time yet.  I was on FriendFeed today and I saw this post by Fred Wilson and he did a really good job of articulating what I was thinking.

I don’t go to TED and never have and don’t think I ever will. I don’t go to Demo or Techcrunch 50 or any of those kinds of events either.

I spent the weekend in Vegas with a bunch of people who go to the Lobby conference every year, including its organizer David Hornik. David was trying to convince me to come this year, but I told him the idea of a ten hour flight to Hawaii was not attractive to me. I suggested to David if he did it in a place where us east coasters could get to a bit easier, I might consider it.

Travel is a hassle. Its time consuming and gets in the way of doing other more productive things. I’ll gladly travel to the west coast or europe to visit our portfolio companies and meet with new investment opportunities.

But the idea of travel to get together with the same old group, the tech biz insider club, doesn’t appeal to me at all.

I do like attending events that happen in NYC, like I am doing tomorrow morning. I am speaking at Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit. I’ll spend the morning there, get some networking in, and be back in my office for our monday meeting in the afternoon. That’s how I like to do conferences, short, sweet, and easy. I think our industry places too much emphasis on conferences in an era where there are amazing tools to congregate online and find like minded people. I am not suggesting that face to face meetings aren’t important, they are critical. But schmoozefests at fancy resorts aren’t the kinds of face to face meetings I want to do.

And ‘by invitation only’ or high priced events are particularly bad in my mind. The most interesting people you can meet are the outsiders, the up and comers, and the hackers who can’t afford to lay out $4000 to attend an event and are never going to get an invite to an event where you have to know somebody or "be somebody" to get in. So I avoid those most of all.

Back in the 90s, I was unknown to the powers that be and could not get into TED. I don’t forget that and that’s why I’ll never go to it. I don’t want to play that game. If I ever got an invite to Davos or Sun Valley, I’d have a really hard time saying yes. These power parties are not for me.

Update: Bill Kinnon ripped into Q back in 2007

My thoughts are similar to Fred Wilson’s.  I am not a big fan of most conferences.  The travel is a pain when you live in Saskatoon (Saskatoon –> Winnipeg –> Toronto or even worse Saskatoon –> Calgary –> Winnipeg –> Toronto) and want to head east.  It can be a pain in the butt and is a big chunk away from family that isn’t always necessary.  Wendy gave me tickets to Jared Diamond last year in Saskatoon.  It was a fun evening but all he did was talk about Collapse which I guarantee you about 90% of the 1500 people in attendance had already read.  While it was a fun escape and evening, I wouldn’t have driven to hear that talk but in the past that is what I have gotten.  20 minute commercials for a recent book.   I don’t see Q as that much different and on top of that, whoever is behind it should be ashamed of ripping off TED that blatantly. 

If you want me to come to your conference: give me speakers who aren’t out to sell something, give me an affordable venue, make sure some friends are going to be there, and don’t price it as a for profit event.  If you have to pay people $20,000 to speak, I don’t want to hear them.  Give me Soularize, give me Cultivate Gathering, give me Evolving Church.  Don’t give me Q.  I’ve already read the book and downloaded the videos off of the TED website.

Read it to me again

Recently a friend came by work and there were some washers and dryers being moved around the building.  He asked what was up and I explained what we were doing and the reason why.  While the specifics are pretty boring, the “why” is that the more money we save operationally, the more money can be directed into more important things which is why companies and non-profits look to cut operational costs.

As we sat down in my office, he started to mull over his church’s budget and started to list off expenses that many organizations would reject.  He then told me what his church spent on conferences and I was stunned.  Him and I talked about Jared Diamond coming to Saskatoon.  We both had attended and the talk was one that he had given out of Collapse.  We paid $40 a ticket to go and while Diamond was entertaining and gave a good talk, it was nothing we hadn’t read before from him.  He asked me how that was different than most church conferences I had gone to.  Well, it was out of pocket for me and I think for him as well (Wendy gave me the tickets as an anniversary gift) but other than that, it was pretty much the same formula.  A speaker who is always a published author give an excerpt from a book I have probably already read or will be able to purchase in the lobby after the talk.

The question comes down to how better spent would conference money be doing something else in the church?  Conferences are an expensive line item for a lot of churches and of course that money comes from tithes to the church.  For some that money is being used as a pastoral junket to hear speakers who are out promoting their books.  Books that could just be bought and read.   Airfare, hotel, conference fees, meals, all are spent to hear someone give a talk based out of a $30 book that could be ordered from Amazon.

Of course this is being done at a time when we are in a great recession.  I have had these misgivings for years and have listened to pastors says, “if the church is paying for it, why not go?”   It’s as if they have no personal responsibility for their actions and I have to admit, that flippant usage of church money really bothers me.

There is a bigger question here as well and that is why does the evangelical church as a whole need so many conferences.  Years ago I read an article which talked about how students at Canada’s premiere seminaries were not as good as quality as students at the neighboring university.  The idea was that with low wages and a stressful lifestyle, the best and brightest were avoiding seminaries and the marks were curved to suit the students.  Maybe conferences serve the need of a clergy that are not as smart as other professions. Maybe this explains the lack of serious journals and publications dedicated to the trade of being a pastor. Perhaps they serve as a vacation subsidy for pastors.  Lower than average wages mean that vacations are not as common and therefore this kind of boosts them up.   Also they may just happen because no one asks if there is any value to the church for a conference like this.  It is just taken for granted that a couple thousand dollars spent having an author read to a room of pastors is better spent than spending it helping the community.  Either way something doesn’t seem right.