IDSA Mideast Distrcit Conference

After years of attending various design conferences, I’ve accepted the fact that it is unrealistic to expect each one to be a stellar event. Anymore, I just hope to be entertained, learn a few new things, hope for at least one kick-ass presentation and in the end make some new acquaintances. For reasons that I can’t fully explain, I have come to particularly enjoy the district conferences. Perhaps it’s the fact that they tend to be less “polished”, less pretentious and therefore, potentially, a little more “authentic.” Perhaps it’s the intimacy, conviviality and bond that can only be realized among “neighbors” who share common perspectives, interests and concerns. Or perhaps it’s just the shear dominance of the student turn out that energizes and makes me feel young again.

As for this years’ conference, it goes down in my record book as a positive experience. I had a really great time. The people were great, the Ford Museum was awesome, the caliber of the student merit presentations was fantastic and most of the speakers had interesting and compelling presentations. So what was wrong with this years’ conference? Two things! One was within IDSAs’ control and one perhaps was not.

The lack of a Friday night event was disappointing. It would have been great if all attendees (students, teachers and professionals) could have had the chance to mix and mingle in an informal, casual “party” setting. Four years ago the conference was held in Cincinnati. The one thing that I found most memorable from that conference was the Friday night tour of design offices followed by a social at a pool hall. The pool hall was a great venue for student-professional interaction. I hope that future planning committees will consider this bridge-building opportunity.

My second complaint is what really got under my skin. I’ve seen it before, and I’m sure I’ll experience it again. Excuse me for being so blunt, but shame on you Mister Rainer Schnable! It would have been one thing if you simply had a crappie, shity, boring presentation. I could have accepted that. But what you did was unconscionable. How dare you use a speaker slot as a pulpit to make such a blatant self-promotion! Do you really think that I enjoyed paying to hear you sell your services? Do you really think that the audience is that naïve that they would not see through your actions? Do you really think that type of sales approach works? And what was all this “China” bullshit warm-up? I tolerated all the over-quoted facts and statistics that we’ve all come to hear and expect regarding this subject matter, but for you to just string us along and then not make ANY connection between doing business in China and your firms’ work was shocking! What is the message? I could go on, but I think you get my point. Should you get invited to do future presentations, may I suggest that you focus on content, avoid self-promotion and please be more respectful of your audience!

As for you guys at IDSA, keep doing what you’re doing, but just keep asking yourself what can you do better. The conferences continue to keep getting richer. In light of my complaint above, my only specific suggestion is that you may wish to consider issuing a “Speaker Rules of Conduct” pamphlet to each potential future speaker warning them of potential repercussions for misusing speaking time. Should they use the speaking slot to promote their firms’ capabilities versus provide meaningful, educational (and/or entertaining) content, fine them and issue “sanctions.” (Whatever the hell that may mean.)

As for all you other speakers, thank you for giving me something to think about, particularly you Mister Chochinov. I’ve got this great pooper scooper idea, but first I need to get my hands on some depleted uranium.

Spoiled by one rotten apple.

Hi Paco,

Paul Magee here…

Thanks very much for the comments. I honestly love the feedback because it helps improve the deliverable.

To both your points:

You’re correct that we should have had a more well-organized social event after the event on Friday. It was difficult for me to do not being local to the area. And many of our local IDSA folks were overwhelmed with other obligations. As a matter of priority, it was lower on the planning list than ensuring the day’s contents were in place. That said, your point is valid and well-taken. Thanks.

Also, I perform a very rigorous qualification of each of our speakers, including covering a ‘rules of conduct’ with each speaker individually, exactly as you propose. In short, most of the final presentations are not ready for review prior to the conference, so we have to put faith in those speakers to stick to the agreed-upon subject-matter. Most the time we’re right on. Sometimes things get a little sideways. Sometimes our speakers take a great expectation and just positively blow you away (are you reading Allan Chochinov?).

The goal of the District conferences is to provide you, the attendee with solid content for your $, and we work very hard to make that happen. For the Mideast specifically, during my tenure as District VP, we want our message to be focused toward arming our designers with more awareness of the spheres of influence that affect the business of design than they may get in their 9-5 day. To help advance the profession, as well as the breadth of knowledge of the designers in attendance. Less about entertainment - More about enlightenment.

I want to thank you for the solid feedback, and I hope you know we are listening.

Thanks much,

Paul Magee
IDSA Mideast District VP