The Conference Economy


I was going to write a post about how HR conference are killing me.

Killing me.

But who cares? And really, it’s not like I work in a copper mine. (I’m such a drama queen.) But sometimes these events are so lame and exhausting. When I started to write this post, the only thing that came to mind were the lyrics to All Apologies.

I’m not saying that this is poet laureate stuff, people.

I just feel like I’m choking on the ashes of my enemy every time I meet an analyst or vendor who want to talk about the future of strategic human capital management.

What is that?
I mean, really.
Come. On.

All in all is all we are.

Who are the HR conference attendees? There are a couple of different groups. Many are well-intentioned individuals who want to teach, learn, and grow. They show up for 8AM sessions about HR because they are weird — but they are driven to do better in the world. They don’t denigrate workers or HR professionals. They love HR. Truly. It’s authentic.

But the rest of us are fools. I’ll throw my dumb ass into that cohort. A haggard group of hustlers wrapped up in a mediocre micro-economy of inefficiencies and irrelevancy.

Yeah. Something like that.

And I feel married,
by the conference economy.

And no, I don’t need a break from the road.

The HR conference circuit operates in the craziest bubble. A bunch of people talking, thinking, and writing about work but no one actually does real work. I know, I know. We’re all knowledge workers and strategists and futurists. But much of the language we use — on stage, in panels, on the expo floor — comes awfully close to denigrating the labor market and creating a pageant out of mediocre technology and solutions.

We are wasting time. I’ve spent years with self-aggrandizing fools who couldn’t create jobs in motherfucking job factory.

I’m not frustrated or having a breakdown. (Please. There is real pain out there.) But sometimes — in my more reflective moments — I wonder how I can use my voice and platform to make a positive impact on the world of work.

Maybe I can’t. Maybe I’m a dilettante. But I want to punch the ‘conference economy’ in the face before someone else gets hurt by this crap.

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