I received an email from a conference organizer who invited me to address his or her conference. Here is what the email said. (I have edited it only to remove corporately identifying information. I have preserved the original formatting.)
I shall not quibble with errant grammar, punctuation, and capitalization, odd word choices (subjects don’t have “opportunities”), lack of professionalism, and other bits that my friends know never bother me. I did, however, appreciate the enthusiastic formatting. Without it would hardly have known what parts to read.
I shall not grumble that the previous year’s attendee list is as relevant to this year’s as last year’s lineup of new movies is to this year’s.
I shall not nitpick that “a copy of our agenda” is the only form of the agenda the email author could attach.
I shall not sulk upon receiving a form letter from a person who claims (without evidence) to have been “reading up” on my “solutions”, which is about as endearing as receiving a Valentine in an envelope marked “Occupant.”
Why shall I not? Because I am assured the conference itself will be on the highest possible level. I know that because the email author said so, while trying to sell me a “Speaking slot or moderation.” How much does a moderation cost?
I am not a middle-aged fuddy-duddy carping about standards going downhill. Well, maybe I am. But so what? Believe it or not, this is an essay about competing as a skill.
Consider that email in the blazing light of my colleague Ben Gilad’s glorious essay “Conference Goers Beware!”
The email author doesn’t care whether I quibble, grumble, nitpick, or sulk. The important part of that sentence is not “doesn’t care.” The important part is “I.” What we have in that email is marketing beautifully designed to weed out world-class fuddy-duddy experts and to reel in its intended audience. (Feel free to substitute “accidentally” or “carelessly” for “beautifully.”) The intended audience isn’t me. It’s Ben’s “dullards with dollars” who will pay to address this year’s shadow of last year’s attendees.
One question remains. How will the email author attract attendees, whose companies will pay the stiff attendance fee? I’m sure I’ll soon receive an enthusiastically formatted email urging me to attend so I can benefit on the highest possible level from the dullards dropping dollars this year.
So, conference goers, continue to beware. But I still want to know how much a moderation costs.