I’ve been at LIFT08 in Geneva for the past few days - my first time to Switzerland, and my first time to LIFT itself. It’s not your typical conference by any means - it’s not difficult to be blown away by the sheer “uncorporateness” of it all, there’s no “you will learn the following X things” bullet point-led approach and instead it’s about making you think.
The first conference of this kind that I went to was Reboot in Copenhagen - I went under my own steam rather than under the aegis of an employer (partly because of the lack of aforementioned “you will learn X things”). It was totally unlike anything else I’d experienced, and I came away with a mind blown having made some firm friends and learnt a huge amount.
LIFT wasn’t quite so good from the point of view of the presentations - they didn’t resonate with me in the way that the Reboot ones did, although I wonder if that was more to do with the environment as much as the subject matter. Although it was beautifully presented with clear video, excellent sound and great facilities outside the main conference, the room itself was dark which hid the engagement of the audience. But it was just as good in terms of meeting fascinating people and learning from them.
It can be really intimidating arriving at a conference of this type knowing virtually no-one, particularly because there is a hard-core of conference attendees who go around the “circuit” - everyone seems to know each other, apart from you. But the thing about these kinds of conference is that they attract some of the most open and approachable people in the industry, so the chances are that you’ll end up in impassioned arguments about big-ticket topics within a short space of time with people who are worth discussing with.
LIFT was no exception to this. That’s not to say there weren’t a couple of “big names” throwing their egos around, but the beauty of having a conference back channel is that this kind of behaviour gets called out very very quickly. Grabbing the mike for a question when everyone else is observing the “no questions because there’s no time” protocol is rude, as is hogging the wifi by uploading video to your latest vanity project. But judging by the back channel, the future of someone who’s started believing their own hype is likely to be pretty short, so this probably won’t be something I’ll see again.
Geneva was impressive for its efficiency and cleanliness, I landed up at a decent hotel, and the venue was good. Apart from being embarrassed by my increasingly ropey French, it was an excellent trip, and one I’ll look forward to making next year.T
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