I was one of the lucky 12 who got to share the spotlight and hoopla that was Recruitfest! 2010 last week in Boston. It was all “places everybody…lights…camera…action” and it’s the closest I will ever get to being on Oprah. There has already been some great blogging/vlogging about the event and its content. MonsterThinking is doing a fab job of keeping track of it all, so check it out. Everything that has been said is true: while it’s never been done before, the format has set the bar for conferences to come; the topics, discussion, and debate have already created a buzz in our profession; Eric Winegardner is in fact a celebrity and has a career in daytime television if he wants it.
I purposely took a few days to craft my Recruitfest! Reflections because I didn’t want the afterglow from the event to cloud my judgment. Now that it’s worn off, I am once again prepared to play the contrarian. Let me start by saying I am not in the business of sponsoring, organizing, facilitating, or even presenting at conferences. I’ve attended my fair share and presented at a few, but that by no means makes me an expert. In some ways, a good conference is like a good cliffhanger…it leaves you wanting more and, therefore, forces you to attach yourself to it (and to pony up next year’s fee). That attachment is built through the swankiness of the venue, the quality of the entertainment, the pedigree of the attendees, the fullness of the bar, how well the sponsors shower us with swag…and yes, the quality of the presenters and their content. Recruitfest! posted up superb marks toward all of these measures…for sure. But here’s the deal: when it comes to takeaways, Recruitfest! 2010 left us with few that were tangible enough to act on in any reasonable amount of time. Sure, it sparked great dialog and many of you will be instrumental in perpetuating it. But the dialog was more about the issues and less about the solutions. Rather than diving deep on a few important issues and knocking them down, we ended up just skimming the surface on many interesting issues and knocking them around. Few vs. Many. Important vs. Interesting. Down vs. Around. We covered 12 distinct topics over 9 hours. That’s great for attracting a large diverse audience, but it’s not terribly effective in giving the attendees something to propagate in their organizations. Just when the dialog got juicy, just when the audience started to queue up for questions or comments, and just when we started discussing solutions, we cut to a commercial break. I know I felt frustrated by that and wonder whether you did too.
I get it: conferences are about drawing awareness, energizing a cause, and building a community. Recruitfest! did that better than any conference I’ve ever been a part of. The technology and format unveiled by Monster and RecruitingBlogs, though, give us a real opportunity to make conferences a lasting event and not just a drive-by shooting. I hope we start seeing this format applied to a series of interconnected events and discussions around a single meaty topic which builds over time. Start with defining the problem, yes, but don’t stop until solutions abound. We don’t have to cram it down every one’s throats anymore – it no longer has to be about appeasing the masses; we can send it out and share it in smaller doses, connect the dots from one to the next, and truly collaborate toward meaningful and actionable takeaways.
I like to bitch. That’s my gig. But this is less of a bitch and more of a suggestion for what to bring to the lab next time [insert mad scientist cackle]. I am thrilled to have been a part of this event, the energy it has created, and the tremendous contribution it has made to our industry. Peace.
Photo Credit: Mayor of Concord