2 Types of Speakers to Ban from your Tech Conference

I’ve attended a number of tech conferences in South Africa and at every one of them one of two topics seem to raise it’s head, and frankly I think we need to ban the types of people pushing these topics on stage from speaking…
Social Media Marketers
Every time I attend a conference I find that I would have much rather have been listening to one of the developers in the crowd than the person on the stage, this feeling is amplified when a self proclaimed Social Media guru takes to the stage. In South Africa this is especially true because we have a huge amount of talented devs often sitting in the crowd, and a social media evangelist hogging the lime light.
I have nothing particularly against Social Media agencies, but I do take issue with the fact that they insist that a room filled with a thousand tech savy geeks live tweeting from their latest Apple iSomething has never heard of Social Media.
VC and Angel Investors
Another group of people I think conferences can do without are all these VC and Angel Investor types. These blokes very often have never written a line of code in their lives, have a horrible track record in picking investments and most of them have never run a start up or even launched an app. Then we ask them to run onto the stage and for 30 minutes tell us what we should be doing as entrepreneurs thinking about starting up?
This is very much like having talent scouts running on stage explaining what they are looking for at a talent show instead of having the actual talent showing off their skills on stage. It’s always so sad to see all the people clamouring for attention from investors after they speak… Why on earth are we flocking to investors anyway? Shouldn’t they be flocking towards the talent? Put the talent on the stage for goodness sakes.
The Silicon Cape events have been trying to put the talent on the stage. They have this elevator pitch competition they always run, and although it’s a step in the right direction, I feel a 30 second time limit on a world changing idea someone has spent months, if not years coming up with, is grossly dehumanizing and insulting. I personally would never do an elevator pitch at a Silicon Cape event on stage, for that matter I refuse to do elevator pitches in general.
In Conclusion
Can we please for the sake of sanity put people on stage at Tech conferences that are actually trying to build tech? Investors and Social Media Marketers are essentially fanboys of tech, using it and investing in it but not building it. Can we get the engineers and tech entrepreneurs back on the stage please?

  1. I think that in general developers doesn’t get enough exposure and recognition, while they’re the people who actually makes things happen.
    I’ve had this idea for a while where u can have some sort of a “loeries” type event for developers from all fields, giving them recognition.. not sure how that idea will go over hehe

    1. Agree with the article. Nothing irritates me more than realising that I am not gonna actually learn anything other than why I should buy/use your product.
      I was actually thinking about that the other day. Has there every been a conference with speakers suchs as the guys who actively enhance PHP, MySQL, jQuery, CSS/HTML etc etc?
      I do think developers are left in the dark when it comes to recognition.

  2. Amen. I’d also add: “Product Marketing people disguised as Technologists.” When I’m at a conference and thirty minutes in I realize I’m in an advertisement, I vote with my feet and walk out. No Product Shills, please. 

  3. pretty ignorant take on it. exactly why so many developers I know will never make a lot of money.

    1. I agree to some extent. I know developers who look at a conference like netprophet and make gagging noises. Except, hearing a speaker like Permjot Valia talk about funding ideas really shouldn’t get that kind of reaction. If you can’t see the value (networking, insights, people who can help you turn your idea into a business), then you need to check yourself for problems with your perception.
      I think conferences should be about quality speakers, the topic should be well presented and provide some insight. Knowing what your audience is like should be core to organising a conference (there is a great discussion by Jeffery Zeldman about An Event Apart presentations/speakers in http://5by5.tv/bigwebshow/48). Out right banning talks about social media is short sighted. Finding someone who can present some interesting aspects, and give developers and engineers inspiration/insight should be the goal.
      NetProphet is not a techy conference. It is a conference about technology. The reality is that in SA we can’t support an exclusively high-level technical conference like Velocity, etc. (and even the big conferences have streams so that dfferent segments of the audience can attend the conference they want to). Tech4Africa is one of the few conferences which has started to get to the point of appealing to a more technical audience.
      I think the key here is stop punting from the side-lines about how terrible a *free* conference is, and climb in and help improve it (or try your hand at running your own, to see how challenging it is to get to the day speakers can present).
      I want a very technical conference as much as anyone, but recognising that I (as a developer) am not the only part of a working Technology sector means I am grateful for the value I can extract, and recognise that there are people at the same conference I attend, that will have a totally different experience, and extract a totally different value from it.

      1. Although I agree with the sentiment, a conference being Free should not mean that the subject matter should put half the audience to sleep. When I offer up an entire day to a conference targeted at technologists, I expect a hell of a lot more tech on the stage. Netprophet was basically a whole lot of new media people getting together. Having said that my post is about all tech conferences not just NP.
        I’m not even asking for a highly technical presentation, all I’m asking for is less new media and more tech. Get some of the guys from  MIH or Naspers Labs on the stage to tell us about their apps, get ISLabs to tell us about the startups they’re incubating… but for the love of god ban the guy talking about Social Media as if no one in the audience has ever heard of twitter.

  4. I must say, I don’t even think this post makes sense. It’s not that it’s contrarian, just inaccurate and not particularly well thought out.
    C’mon Jason, you’re way smarter than this.

    1. Well I wasn’t exactly arguing any particular point so over all it might lack structure I guess. If anything this was just a rant from all the experiences I’ve had at tech conference in SA. I would have liked if you pointed out the inaccuracies btw.

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