There are conferences out there that claim the ability to alter the way you think, connect you with great minds and change the world. TED is perhaps the best known. The model relies on the desire for internal change and a willingness to be impacted. Wise heads, talented artists of all stripes and personal interaction are the draw.
But can a conference of a few days be meaningful? What value is received for the money? What if you could take a look from the inside?
I will attend for you. The Push Institute has granted me a press pass this week for their 2008 conference "The Fertile Delta." I attended the opening performance tonight.
Tonight was about the stories.
Jenni Wolfson’s Scots accent pierced through my midwestern brain. She knitted her humor into the telling of her experiences as a UN Human Rights Activist in Rwanda. The first of four monologues closed with slides of the dead in Rwanda. The laughter faded as the images sunk in.
Dan Wilson (Semisonic, Trip Shakespeare) shared his "Junior Song" with us. Every band dreads the tribute song following the songwriters first child. Except that Dan’s Junior song was "Closing Time" and he hid the references to his new child within the song. Read the lyrics and imagine the song from a birth perspective (Hint: Room rhymes with womb)
Closing time – this room won’t be open ’til your brothers or your sisters
The song was released the same day that his daughter Coco was allowed to go home from the hospital (a year after birth) The ambulance driver asked Dan if he was from Semisonic, because he had heard the song minutes before. Dan seemed humbled by the metaphor of an ambulance driver singing "I know who I want to take me home" while he rode home with his daughter. His latest album is Free Life.
I met Tom Willner at the gathering afterwards. He quizzed me about life with three kids, they are expecting their third in September. He shared his story with me. He is at the PUSH conference as a ‘scout’ for The Futuring and Innovation Center at the American Cancer Society, checking out the impact of the Push conference. Their experience at Poptech ‘stained’ their thinking and altered their outlook. They’d like to replicate the experience.
Stephanie Kinnunen and her husband founded their magazine NEED after their sons were out of the house and they were looking for purpose in their lives beyond lifestyle improvements. Their vacations had centered on Mexican garbage dumps or regions without reliable clean water, but they wanted to make a larger impact. They asked aid groups what was needed. They heard "Tell our stories of Hope". And so they do.
We are not out to save the world, but to tell the stories of those who do.
More coming up tomorrow.
The comments are for your stories. Have you attended a conference that really made a difference in your life? What made it stick? Do you still retell the stories you heard there? Have you found this type of conference (Futurist, multimedia, networking) to be a boondoggle?