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I get asked to talk at a conference on a daily basis. I’m flattered by the interest, but it’s impossible for me to accomodate even a small percentage of the requests. I don’t charge anything to speak so I can’t use that as a filter, so I end up using geography and type of participation as my filters.
A while ago I wrote a rant against panels and decided I would no longer participate in them. I hate them, I hate being on them, and I hate listening to them. Every now and then I’ll agree for a friend, like I did for Howard Lindzon at the Thunderbird Global Business Dialogue in Phoenix on 11/10, but only because I know that Howard and I will simply have a blast talking about whatever we want with our poor, unsuspecting co-panelists. Plus I wanted to spend a weekend in Phoenix with Amy. So – that’s an easy filter – no to panels.
My geography filter has become refined to “I’ll do it if I’m already planning to be nearby.” Again, I make a few exceptions, but since I already travel so much it turns out that this works out ocassionally. But this is a frustrating filter for me as there are a lot of things I’m invited to talk at that I’d like to – often in conjuction with students or groups of entrepreneurs (who I love to talk to) – but doesn’t pass the geography filter.
Recently, I decided to try doing conference talks and lectures via Skype. If it’s a keynote, I figure 15 – 30 minutes is plenty. If it’s a class, an hour seems to be the appropriate length of time.
The early response has been awesome. I’ve gotten great positive feedback from the conference organizers who appreciated my involvement. The technology infrastructure is really easy – all that’s typically needed is already there given the A/V requirements of the other speakers. For me, it’s a physical dream – I can do it from my office, from the road, from a hotel room, from my house, or from Tuscany. Suddenly, I feel very untethered in the conference context.
While I don’t get the benefit of participating in the conference, nor do the people at the conference get to spend time with me, this wouldn’t happen anyway since I’m not an avid conference goer. However, if the content that I’m providing is really valued, this approach seems to work really well.
The double bonus of this working in a classroom setting is really appealing to me. I’ve always been a huge fan of incorporating guest lectures into undergraduate and post-graduate education. I love some of the revolutionary things going on in the field of education around Khan Academy, SkillShare, and our new investment Sympoz. However, for now, the traditional university classroom still exists and to the extent that I can participate regularly with students and professors who want me involved, I now have a way to make it work that let’s me relax geography as a constraint.