Tuesday, September 12, 2000

The Cyber Scene in Stockholm ~ by Karl Palmas

There are Events, and then there are events.

The past week saw a plethora of conferences and seminars on wireless
Internet: Nordic GPRS' (September 11-12), 'A Glorious Day for
Wireless Communications' (September 12), 'Nordic Telecom 2000'
(September 13-14), 'Brainheart Capital Seminar on Wireless IT'
(September 19), 'Networks Telecom' (September 20-22). Having
attended all of the gatherings mentioned, in retrospect I have
severe problems distinguishing them from each other. They all tend
to blur together in a heavy-eyelid haze of PowerPoint excesses and
intermittent meals.

The one conference that did stand out from the crowd was the
'Glorious Day' event at prestigious venue Cirkus. This was partly
due to the strong line-up of speakers: The opening speech was held
by Lars Berg (former CEO of Telia and the telecom branch of
Mannesmann) and the closing ditto was delivered by
÷sten M‰kitalo (Executive VP Strategy & Innovation, Telia). Mr
M‰kitalo has recently reached guru status in Scandinavia, being
dubbed 'the father of mobile telephony', very much due to ample
advertising efforts from Telia.

Over the post presentation Italian buffet, the attendees were
dealing with two quandaries.
I: Why you never seem to learn how to save plate space for the good
(expensive) dishes typically found towards the end of the buffet
II: Why you never seem to learn not expect insight, rather than
plugging of products, from speakers on such events.

The second point (never mind the first one) touches upon what can
be referred to as the conference conspiracy: How, under the guise
of serious and well-intended competence enhancement, conferences
attract knowledge-starved delegates to gatherings that are nothing
but exposure extravaganzas. Often attendees are left feeling
disappointed, however not disappointed enough to turn down the next
offer to go to one.

The cynic delegate doesn't even mind the disappointment, being
fully prepared for it. S/he is well aware of the fact that the
event is about propaganda, rather than insight, but just doesn't
care since conferences are a nice distraction from ordinary life.
Thus, for a certain breed of conference attendees, the competence
enhancement element of the conference is more of an excuse for
attending than a 'guise'.

What the participants at the 'Glorious Day' event did seem to enjoy
the most, though, was the ad-hoc appearance of illusionist and
performer Joe Labero. Possibly scoring somewhat lower in providing
mobile Internet insight, Mr Labero was the feature that made the
event stand out from the crowd. However, such features are regarded
as unserious - not to mention proper release parties and other
'happenings'. Events like that are deemed speculative and scheming.
Why? At parties, at least the hidden agenda is fairly transparent.
What you see is what you get. Let's be frank: Every business is more and more turning into show business. If there is product plugging to be done; why not do something exciting with it?

Fortunately, conference days are over for me. Tonight (September
21), I will be enjoying an honest cocktail party at bachelors' bar
Tiger, hosted by a network for IT professionals called Shortcut.
Looking forward to some sincere PR.