Have Conferences Like Davos And TED Lost Their Mojo?
6:36 pm, March 5th | by Hillary Reinsberg
You’ve probably heard it argued before that Davos basically important people standing around each other to feel important. But did you know that lots of participants don’t even attend the forums? From The New Yorker‘s story:
“Many Davos participants rarely, if ever, attend even one [forum]. Instead, they float around in the slack spaces, sitting down to one arranged meeting after another, or else making themselves available for chance encounters, either with friends or with strangers whom they will ever after be able to refer to as friends.”
While Davos is hailed as the cream of the crop, the elite of conferences, the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conferences are sometimes thought of as a more creative, slightly less elitist (though still pretty elitist) version of the conference. That popularity was exciting at first, but as New York‘s story argues, it’s meant the addition of more and more and more conferences. At a certain point, won’t ideas stop being original?
Yet it’s also possible to see in TED’s recent growth strategies the marks of desperation and dilution. With more and more conferences fighting over the same speakers, sponsors, guests, and ideas, the sustainability of the movement has begun to look increasingly tenuous. Might there be a cap on the number of interesting ideas in the universe?
And Davos and TED, we should remember, are the A-team of conferences. Behind them, there’s the upcoming (this week) SXSW — and then hundreds and hundreds of others. If TED and Davos and SXSW can’t be original anymore, who can?
My feelings here are mixed. When students organized a TEDx conference at my college, essentially a DIY franchised version of the “real” TED, it seemed like a great idea. How could I scoff at students coming together, for no grades, for what was supposed to be pure intellectual stimulation? How could anyone scoff at that?
But at the same time, the overwhelming number of conferences these days does seem a little overdone, especially when the goal is so often simply to rub elbows more than it is to share ideas. As with everything — best in moderation.