I went to Monkigras last week (a single track conference organised by Redmonk) and had an absolutely brilliant time with around 150 others. Seeing old friends, networking, listening to awesome talks and basically learning more about tech and beer (I don’t really like beer) in 2 days than I ever thought possible. The talks were by people from the US and Europe, so it was more than just London people which is important.
I would describe Monkigras as a “Peer Conference”. It’s not a widely used term (a few people use it if you Google) but it’s one that makes sense to me. A definition?
A peer conference is a self-selecting group of high quality individuals, who come together and provide the content for the conference themselves. In other words: experts sharing knowledge with other experts.
I’ve been to many different “conferences” where it is basically a sales pitch by people that have paid to have top billing at the conference. Someone pays for a speaking slot, then spends 30 minutes “trying not to sell but selling anyway” their service/product to what is a captive audience.
I can’t stand most of these conferences. I mean I really don’t want to have to go to them.
They are the enemy of innovation. Let’s call them what they are: a way of getting people in the same place, so they can sell/buy service/products.
In some markets and situations, these are really important. In tech, very few of them are genuinely helpful. The ones that matter, are those that give you expert information.
Stepping back, the reason these conferences are not that useful in tech is simple. They are often a few years behind the innovation curve. Generally, you find that innovations in the tech space are shared in social circles (social media, email lists, specialised networking circles) and they move fast. You can hear about a product that is useful 1-2 years before the company would be likely to spend money on a booth at a conference. Generally, this means that the conference booths at tech events are filled with either companies that are selling “me too” software, or companies that are selling a product/service that is more mature. Not to say they aren’t good or useful, but it’s not necessarily “current”.
And the likelihood is that you’ve already heard of it.
The cutting edge is where innovation sits. The cutting edge is where experts in the field live.
If you get those experts into one room sharing their knowledge, you end up with a peer conference.
Where would you rather be?