Late on 23rd February, I answered a tweet from @johnbreslin and scored myself a free ticket to the Digital Festival taking place in Dublin the next day. With an impressive line-up of speakers, clearly not the usual ones dragged out for digital events this side of the Irish Sea, I was very pleased with myself.
Sadly the Digital Festival did not live up to expectations.
My take on it is because the festival organisers did not work hard enough on briefing their world-class speakers. I’d go so far as to surmise that they didn’t brief them at all. I think they booked them, gave them a topic, then left it at that. The result was that:
- Shel Israel merely promoted his book. I’m not going to promote it further here, but it’s a book about happy stories coming out of Twitter. I sat there seething that this man was blatantly promoting his book instead of inspiring me – and thought we have plenty of happy stories from Twitter here in Ireland. We don’t need an American to fly in and tell us about it.
- Martin Bailie from Glue gave an interesting talk that touched on things like memory and how we learn. Very interesting but off brief. He even started his presentation by saying he’d been asked to talk about ‘digital consumers… they don’t exist’ so he promptly spoke about stuff that interests him.
- Russell Davies on blogs? Nope. He talked about everything and anything but blogs. But what a wide topic to give to someone – talk about blogs – ridiculous!
Other failures on the part of the organisers included:
- Technology break-down when the sole Irish speaker was about to give his talk. OK that can happen, but surely an experienced event organiser would reshuffle the speakers so that someone (like the ones listed above) who weren’t technology dependent could go on and talk while the techies worked to solve the problem. Instead, Tim Duggan from Mercury Girl Inc, delivered a very poor performance talking through his powerpoints. I felt sorry for him, so I stayed in the room, but when it became apparent that said talk was merely a lengthy description of his portfolio, I left the room and went to grab a coffee.
I’m all in favour of doing more with less – the mantra of succeeding in Ireland these last few years. But there are some things you just don’t scrimp on – refreshments and wifi at a conference are two of them.
- Yeah yeah I know I didn’t pay for my ticket to the Digital Festival, but for those who did, they were left with a bitter taste in their mouth… it certainly made up for the one course rice and chicken meal that was the all included lunch. No starter. No dessert. I paid €2 for a plate of biscuits to share with my table.
- Biggest failure of all – no wifi. You could pay for bitbuzz or you could go to the hotel reception and ask for a 1 hour voucher. That’s totally scabby and shit. If you’re running a conference for digital people, surely to God you know that buzz will be created by said people tweeting your event while it’s on?
I left before the last speaker, I’d had enough. It was a waste of a day as I didn’t learn anything and I was so hungry I couldn’t muster the energy up to network properly.
My advice for anyone planning on putting on a digital festival:
- Sort a deal with the hotel for free wifi
- Go the extra mile and provide a proper lunch
- Work hard to push your speakers to deliver talks that will stimulate and inspire
- Sit back and cream in the cash!
The Digital Festival organisers only achieved 1 out of 4. #FAIL