Monday, July 14, 2008

The conference ritual

There's this ritual that I have: Every year I log onto whichever of the gaming news sites are showing webcasts of the E3 conferences, and in another window I click open British gaming forum, wherein live commentary is provided. It's a real treat for two reasons: 1. The conferences are usually dreadful, full of flash graphics and music around some of the worst presentation giving you have ever seen. They are legendarily awful unless there's some totally awesome hardware launch. 2. The commentary on the forum, on the other hand, is fantastic. They literally tear it apart in a super-lively babble of reality up until the point that the forum keels over for having too many users. Things we've shared over the years:

  • Fist-pumps to no applause
  • Timid voices trying to sound exciting
  • Everybody using the words "opportunity, "experience", "innovation", "compelling", "exciting" blah
  • Fake thanks on stage
  • People clearing throats
  • Bored bored bored journalists
  • The "one more thing" thing which is so tired even Steve Jobs doesn't do it any more
It's great fun, but not really what the interested parties are trying to do, surely? It strikes me that if you're going to do the conference thing then surely the thing to learn is some stagecraft? Don't put the timid exec on stage if he's not good in front of a crowd, for instance. Find someone to do it for you with confidence, even a celebrity if you have to. Don't talk about how exciting things are: show how exciting they are. Don't trot out lists of features as a replacement for content. In the end of the day, there are better ways to present this stuff but ultimately what it comes down to is charisma, and most of these people doing the conferences are no doubt very talented at their jobs but they comes across as nerds talking about their science project at the head of a bored class on a hot summer's day. "Exciting!"

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