Every Cloud: My adventures as a delegate at a technology conference (Part Two)

by Steve

Diagram of back of monitor/computer

Part one of this piece can be found here

The first speaker is from the Major Technology Company. He isn’t a keynote speaker as such, but is as close to a wow speaker as we are going to get today, looking at the agenda. He has the standard cool tech guy look of an open-necked shirt, v-neck sweater, floppy hair. Well, the standard cool tech guy look of a few years back, but as I’m still rocking that look myself, I feel an affinity.

He is pretty good. He explains how Major Technology Companies including his own Major Technology Company have been too focused on new stuff, rather than delivering what people actually want and need. He illustrated the shift, to identifying those wants and needs and then designing cool stuff that is useful in response. I’m all for that. He finishes his slot early. I’m all for that too, as I want that coffee I was denied earlier.

It also turns out that at a technology conference you can spend plenty of time on your phone/laptop/tablet/other internet-enabled device and nobody minds. It is actually encouraged. When I use my old-school paper notebook I get odd looks. When I check Twitter on my phone nobody bats an eyelid.

The next guy is up. He seems more occupied by stuff that he thinks is good than what people actually want or need. He goes into great detail about all kinds of stuff. And then explains the same stuff in another way. Then another.

Apparently we need to ask “How Cloud-y are we today?” when it comes to the Cloud. I learn that on-premise is an actual thing. It soon becomes clear than on-premise is a little like offline, a term that one upon a time wasn’t necessary but now is, if only to offer an opposite to the Cloud or online. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

He then describes something as “PowerPoint on steroids” which sounds frightening and heroically dull at the same time.

He started his session early but we’re now running half an hour over. “I’m still OK for time” he states as he moves on to more stuff about things. Nobody corrects him. Denise looks jaded, the war paint fading.

A further half an hour later and we’ve not only gone through the morning break slot, but we are now halfway through what should have been the next speaker. Someone at the back gingerly motions to their watch. Or where a watch should be.

“I’m being squashed for time here…”

NO. YOU’RE THE ONE SQUASHING TIME. YOU’RE NOT JUST SQUASHING TIME. YOU ARE KILLING TIME AND STRETCHING TIME SO THERE IS NO SPACE BUT FOR YOUR TIME AND YOUR TALK ABOUT ON-PREMISE AND ENTERPRISE AND LEVERAGE AND ROADMAPS AND CLOUDINESS AND POWERPOINT ON STEROIDS. STOP SQUASHING TIME. PLEASE. I’M BEGGING YOU.

Nobody else seems particularly fazed.

“…and as I’m being squeezed for time, let me wrap it up there, and [LOOKS AT WATCH] you can now all go out and enjoy your lunch!”

One of the organisers, not Denise, who has sunk to the floor, listless and lost, explains that while we are technically at lunchtime, if we’re following the agenda it is now just time for a quick tea or coffee. It may be past twelve, but this is our mid-morning break.

We shuffle out of the auditorium.

Leo looks over to me. “Look! No biscuits!”

We return for the last morning session, although morning is now a distant memory. One of the other guys on my table, Dave, asks me a question. I have no idea what he is asking me, but I manage to phrase my response in a way that lets him tell me about what he has done in terms of enterprise cloud roadmap leveraging, or whatever was being covered in the previous session. Malcolm across the table joins in. I just keep nodding. I understand about one word in seven and suspect I’ve signed up for the wrong conference. “Was it easy to get buy-in?” I ask, hoping that my question makes sense within whatever context I’m in right now. I think I get away with it.

There is then another session. But all I can think about is lunch. That, and the loo. The door code has been scrawled on a flip chart. I commit it to memory.

“OK guys, to make up a little time, maybe we could just have a twenty-minute lunch break?” There is then some mumbling among the organisers. “OK, don’t worry, let’s make it thirty!”

Surely the whole point of conferences is that you get to leave early? It is a day out of the office which is shorter than your average day, involves little or no effort, has free food and free pens. Extending the lunch break is not in the spirit of things.

I leave the auditorium. There is a very long queue. Right at the front of the queue is the speaker who delayed lunch, and the whole day. It was not enough to deny us food. He now wants to make us wait even longer while he gets his food first. And much like his presenting, he gathers his food very slowly.

There is the buffet dance, the awkwardness around not wanting to take too many sandwiches, particularly as the tiny plates make even a meagre offering look like you’re being especially greedy, followed by the difficult standing and eating and trying not to make too much eye contact while your face is full of a carefully cut quarter-sandwich, followed by realising you’re still incredibly hungry and there is loads of food left but you don’t want to be the first one to go and get seconds.

I make a plan to go to the toilet and then reassess the whole buffet seconds situation.

I return from the toilet and tap in the code. The glass doors won’t open. I tap again. No joy. I try the numbers in a different order, conscious that at any point I might set off some sort of alarm, and that I’m in full view of all the sandwich munching delegates. I try the code again. Nothing.

Eventually someone takes pity and opens the door for me.

I want to hide, obviously. But there isn’t really anywhere to hide, unless you know the codes. And I clearly don’t know the codes.

Image from Internet Archive Book Images, via Flickr

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