The best conference hack is simple, always available and won’t cost you a dime, just a little courage.
Sit in the front row.
Here are 5 reasons why…
You’ll meet amazing people
At the Summit Series – Summit at Sea conference in 2011, I attended Tony Conrad’s session and staked out my spot in the front row. A few minutes before the talk began, Tim Ferriss himself sat down in the seat right next to me.
Tim and I chatted briefly before and after the session and have stayed in contact ever since.
You’ll connect with the speakers
Some venues have big bright lights illuminating the stage, making it hard for speakers to see more than a few rows into the audience. But if you’re sitting in the front row, leaning in and paying attention, you immediately become part of any speaker’s direct line of sight.
Your hand will be seen first if you ask a question and your face will be memorable when you talk to any speakers afterward.
Also, front row seats are often reserved for upcoming speakers, so you never know who you’ll sit next to. (It might be Tim Ferriss.)
You’ll actually be able to see the slides
Despite free and widely available advice from presentation design champions like Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds and Jon Thomas, most slides (even from some amazing speakers) still suck.
Too many words per slide. Too small a font. The dreaded slideument.
Few speakers design visuals for the back row, so by sitting in the front, you get to absorb all the content; even the stuff in 10pt. font.
You’ll focus and learn more
If you hide in the back, every row between you and the speakers is a potential distraction. Staring at the backs of everyone’s head makes it easy for your mind to wander. It’s too easy to check your phone and tune out.
By sitting in the front row, you’ll avoid these distractions, focus on the speakers and learn more.
You’ll gain confidence in other areas
The amygdala, our “lizard brain”, is the part of our brain that tells us to sit in the back. It’s the little devil on our shoulder that convinces us to hide, fit in and hold back.
Simple actions like proactively sitting in the front row at a conference can help you learn to recognize and manage your lizard brain. Silencing it through simple victories like sitting in the front row will help you silence it in other areas as well.
Pretty soon, you’ll be the one up on stage.
Sit in the front row
There is a cost to attending conferences. Your time is valuable.
Next time you go, get the most value possible.
Get there ten minutes early and sit in the front row.
Election Day is tomorrow. Most polls say the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be close.
I’ll be watching closely to see who wins but not because I think either candidate understands what this country needs to move forward and even if they did, the bureaucracy of our political system is an innovation condom structured to prevent it.
Below are sixteen links I’ve curated on the topics of education, healthcare, the economy and innovation. These links are intended to be non-partisan and don’t explicitly endorse either candidate. These are the issues that I wish more people would read and understand and have intelligent discourse about.
These are the issues that I wish our two presidential candidates would read, watch and understand. Below are click-to-tweet buttons if you would like to share this post with your candidiate of choice or anyone else. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
I’m going to steal a convention I like from Fred Wilson, and list “The Money Quote” for each link.
The Money Quote: (right after Seth has the crowd recite the standard student-to-teacher morning ritual call, “Good morning, Mr. Godin”)
“Have you thought about how, for 100 or 150 years, that was ingrained into the process of public education? Have you thought at all, as people on the cutting edge, as people who are interested in making school work again, about a very simple question? What is school for? I don’t think we’re answering that question. I don’t even think we’re asking that question. Everyone seems to think they know what school is for, but we’re not going to make anything happen until we can all agree, about how we got here, and where we’re going. My goal today is to put that question into your head and help you think about it.“
“Changing school doesn’t involve sharpening the pencil we’ve already got. School reform cannot succeed if it focuses on getting schools to do a better job of what we previously asked them to do. We don’t need more of what schools produce when they’re working as designed. The challenge, then, is to change the very output of the school before we start spending even more time and money improving the performance of the school.“
“The current education system was designed and conceived and structured for a different age. It was conceived in the intellectual culture of the enlightenment and in the economic circumstances of the industrial revolution.“
Dr. Jay Parkinson outlines what a new, sustainable healthcare system might look like.
The Money Quote:
“We need designers to create from the ground up a new, sustainable, healthcare experience that’s split into three arms, each paid for with different business models than are applied today. Most important, these three systems should be focused on your needs, interoperable and powered by a platform that looks and functions like a secure Facebook designed to power health communication. You would be able to schedule your own appointments and email, IM, and videochat with your health professionals. You’d also have a guide, an expert in medical triage, to show you what kind of professional you need, how much you should spend, and who would be best for you in your area.”
“On Manhattan’s fashionable Upper East Side, the door on 77th Street says Lenox Hill Radiology. It’s a busy place, with 20 or 30 people typically waiting in chairs. It takes insurance.
But if you walk a few steps down the block to Madison Avenue, and one block up to 78th Street, you’ll walk through the door of New York Private Medical Imaging. The waiting room has only four chairs, usually empty. It takes cash, checks and credit cards. You can try to recoup some of your money later if you have insurance.
Both doors ultimately lead to the same area of changing rooms and scanning equipment. The same technicians perform PET scans and MRIs on the same machines. The employees are warned, in a written policy, not to tell the patients about the other door.”
“My dad became a statistic—merely one of the roughly 100,000 Americans whose deaths are caused or influenced by infections picked up in hospitals. One hundred thousand deaths: more than double the number of people killed in car crashes, five times the number killed in homicides, 20 times the total number of our armed forces killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Dr. Atul Gawande explains what the town of McAllen, Texas can teach us about healthcare.
The Money Quote:
“Providing health care is like building a house. The task requires experts, expensive equipment and materials, and a huge amount of coördination. Imagine that, instead of paying a contractor to pull a team together and keep them on track, you paid an electrician for every outlet he recommends, a plumber for every faucet, and a carpenter for every cabinet. Would you be surprised if you got a house with a thousand outlets, faucets, and cabinets, at three times the cost you expected, and the whole thing fell apart a couple of years later? Getting the country’s best electrician on the job (he trained at Harvard, somebody tells you) isn’t going to solve this problem. Nor will changing the person who writes him the check.”
“Don’t do the internet thing and glance at all of these questions. Sit down, read them carefully. Think about each one. Ask the right questions about each one like who, what, when, where, and why. Find the answers. Then go and talk intelligently about healthcare.”
Seth explains the forever recession, the race to the bottom, why job creation is a false idol and the opportunity of a lifetime.
The Money Quote:
“Why do we believe that jobs where we are paid really good money to do work that can be systemized, written in a manual and/or exported are going to come back ever? The internet has squeezed inefficiencies out of many systems, and the ability to move work around, coordinate activity and digitize data all combine to eliminate a wide swath of the jobs the industrial age created.
There’s a race to the bottom, one where communities fight to suspend labor and environmental rules in order to become the world’s cheapest supplier. The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win…”
In this discussion with George Stroumboulopoulos, Seth goes deeper on the forever recession and the end of the industrial age, and how as a society, we are completely unprepared for this revolution. He explains the way to win is to pick yourself and focus on the race to the top. Instead of being “the same but cheaper”, focus on being interesting, unique, noteworthy and more expensive.
The Money Quote:
“The recession is a forever recession. There’s a cyclical thing that comes and goes but there’s this other thing and it’s the end of the industrial age. It lasted for 80 years. For 80 years, you got a job, you did what you were told, you retired. And good people could make above average pay for average work. And it ended. And so 2012 is not going to be more of the same, it’s going to be worse of the same, in that the industrial age is going away and a new thing is going to take its place.”
“Our approach to higher education is exacerbating our problems. Efficiency innovations often add workers with yesterday’s skills to the ranks of the unemployed. Empowering innovations, in turn, often change the nature of jobs — creating jobs that can’t be filled.
Today, the educational skills necessary to start companies that focus on empowering innovations are scarce. Yet our leaders are wasting education by shoveling out billions in Pell Grants and subsidized loans to students who graduate with skills and majors that employers cannot use.”
The classic essay by Leonard E. Read explains cooperation without coercion; how it takes thousands of people who live in many lands, speak different languages, practice different religions, and may even hate one another to cooperate to produce a simple pencil.
Clay Shirky explains how distributed version control systems like Github are really a revolutionary new form of arguing, what that means for how communities come together and how they can positively impact society at large.
The Money Quote:
“A momentous thing that can happen to a culture is they can acquire a new style of arguing: trial by jury, voting, peer review, now this. A new form of arguing has been invented in our lifetimes, in the last decade in fact. It’s large. It’s distributed. It’s low cost. And it’s compatible with the ideals of democracy. The question for us now is, are we going to let the programmers keep it to themselves, or are we going to try to take it and press it into service for society at large?”
In an in-depth look at Founders Fund’s investing thesis, the authors explain that human creativity and technical ability can build a better future for all humanity.
The Money Quote:
“The best founders want to radically change the world for the better. To many investors, visionary entrepreneurs come off as naïve or worse – isn’t it safer/easier/more profitable to create a(nother) social network for cat fanciers than to try to cure cancer, defeat terrorism, or organize the world’s information? The problem is that all start-ups are difficult – long hours, low pay, and fierce competition wear on even the most dedicated teams. The entrepreneurs who make it have a near-messianic attitude and believe their company is essential to making the world a better place. It doesn’t matter whether everyone agrees with the entrepreneur about the world-historical nature of the project – if the entrepreneur seeks an impact beyond his own payday and can convince employees of the same, the project is much more likely to get done. The engineers at SpaceX are passionate about commercializing and colonizing space; profit is a significant byproduct of their extraordinary effort to achieve that goal but not enough to get them to pull the thousandth all-nighter. The same is true of Jobs at Apple, or the programmers at Palantir, or the researchers at new drug companies. Early in a company’s life, an entrepreneur can make enough money to satisfy his own needs (though often not much of a return for the investor); to take a company from $50 million to $50 billion requires singular vision and dedication. Wild-eyed passion is not a bad thing by any means.”
Umair Haque argues convincingly that awesomeness is the new innovation.
The Money Quote:
“Let’s summarize. What is awesomeness? Awesomeness happens when thick — real, meaningful — value is created by people who love what they do, added to insanely great stuff, and multiplied by communities who are delighted and inspired because they are authentically better off. That’s a better kind of innovation, built for 21st century economics.”
Peter Diamandis summarizes his excellent book Abundance in his 2012 TED Talk.
The Money Quote:
“I’m not saying we don’t have our set of problems — climate crisis, species extinction, water and energy shortage — we surely do. But ultimately, we knock them down.“
Thanks for Reading
Thanks for reading. I know this was a long one.
If you would like to share this post with your favorite candidate, or with anyone, feel free to use the click-to-tweet buttons below or share using this link:http://spnd.ws/16links.
If you have thoughts of your own or any other links you would like to share, I’d love to discuss in the comments, although I don’t want the discussion to get political and debate the merits of either candidate or party. If you want that debate, it’s easy to find. Thanks.
Most of us remember the first time we met the most important people in our lives. The first date with our significant other. The first time we heard our mentors speak.
I don’t even remember the first time I met AJ Leon.
I remember hearing about AJ (and his wife Melissa) from some mutual friends. I remember hearing how they traveled the world doing amazing projects helping people and organizations. “You have to meet them”, was the common refrain.
I remember being so impressed with what I heard that even before I met them, I included them in my talk on being a Linchpin at LessConf in 2010. (49:12 mark)
Sometime after that, I met AJ in real life but I couldn’t tell you when or where.
The reason I don’t remember the first time I met AJ is because in a strange way, I’ve known him forever. AJ embodies how see my ideal self — a rare and amazing combination of creativity, generosity and empathy wrapped around a core of drive, determination and shipping.
The most important of all those traits? Shipping.
AJ knows that all the empathy in the world doesn’t mean jack without shipping.
The idea of Twitter Kids, teaching kids in Tanzania who have never even used a computer how to use Twitter to connect with people all over the world doesn’t matter if you don’t actually make it happen.
The idea of using digital storytelling to make a difference for a group of people doesn’t matter if the story never gets told.
The idea of launching humanitarian projects to raise millions of dollars to help 9 African countries doesn’t matter if you don’t get past the whiteboard.
AJ ships. Over and over and over. As often and as consistently as anyone I know.
Who are your heroes?
There are a lot of people I’ve idolized and hoped to emulate throughout the years. Steve Jobs. Seth Godin. Aaron Rodgers. Jerry Weintraub. Jack Dorsey. Dwayne Wade.
It’s important to have friends, mentors and heroes.
But after meeting AJ, I realized that I want to be him when I grow up. The way he treats people. The way he gives and gives and gives. The way he ships.
So what is AJ shipping now?
Only 3 huge projects and an online contest. Plus a bunch of client work.
It’s completely free. A collection of essays from the last four years since AJ confidently walked away from a very lucrative but soul-sucking corporate job in Manhattan.
This PDF is a generous gift from AJ to you. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t change your life.
The Road Trip
Four days ago, AJ and Melissa embarked on a journey around the world. 1,080 days. Mostly by RV, sometimes by by car, bus, train, bicycle, foot, ferry and boat. You can read all about it here and follow along by signing up for AJ’s newsletter or following him on Twitter or Instagram.
The Pursuit of Everything website
AJ just launched his new website, PursuitOfEverything.com. It’s the best place to learn more about AJ and follow him on his journey.
The Pursuit of Everything Contest – If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? And why?
AJ is giving away a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world, just for a comment on this blog post.
It ends tonight (8/22 at 11:59pm ET).
Go. Now. Enter. It’s easy.
Just leave a comment explaining where you want to go and why.
(I may or may not be one of the secret Jedi judges, but even if I was, it’s too late to bribe me now. Just leave a comment.)
A final thanks.
Thank you AJ. Thanks for living your life in a way that inspires so many of us.
Thanks for showing us that shipping isn’t just possible, it’s critical.
One of the most underused “secret weapon” social media sites is Twitter’s advanced search. There’s gold in those tweets if you learn how to listen. [tweet this]
There is only one true formula for calculating ROI. [Profit Gained - Cost] divided by [Cost] x 100. [tweet this]
Ignore made up “ROI” metrics like Return on Influence and Return on Ignorance. These are “smoke and mirror” metrics conjured up by marketers and consultants who don’t know how to demonstrate real ROI from social efforts. [tweet this]
Baselines are not just for tennis. To measure indirect impact of social media efforts and ROI, organizations must define not only objectives (what they want to achieve) but baselines (where they currently are). [tweet this]
Consultants and marketers who aren’t capable of understanding and proving Social Media ROI through baselines, objectives, strategies and tactics resort to made up metrics like Return on Ignorance, Return on Engagement or Return on Conversation.
There are so many social media tools and platforms, it’s easy to get distracted chasing the latest shiny new tool. Ignore the myriad of tools until you specifically define goals and objectives. [tweet this]
Marketers are often smarter than professional athletes, yet professional athletes are never confused whether their season was a success or not. This is because athletes have a clearly defined “Champagne Moment”. Win the championship. That’s it. A singular goal that never changes. As marketers, we must do a better job of defining the specific objectives of our marketing initiatives. [tweet this]
Objectives should be defined using the SMART methodology (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timebound). This can be simply framed even more simply as: “increasing or decreasing a specific metric by a defined amount over a defined period of time.”
Different departments will have very unique “Champagne Moments”.
Many use the hashtag measure when discussing digital analytics and social media measurement on Twitter. Follow it for interesting discussions, blog posts, links and tools.[tweet this]
A huge thanks to Rick, Dave and the rest of the Blogworld crew for letting me on my soapbox for a while. They put on a great show and I look forward to speaking at future Blogworld events.