Near the end of last April, I spoke at the Gel (Good Experience Live) conference, in New York. Here is evidence, in the form of a couple of video excerpts.
Here’s the first part of my presentation, in which I draw attention to the lowly screen saver and talk about my fascination with random numbers. You’ll find the second part at the bottom of this post.
Although I didn’t really have any idea what to expect, I found I enjoyed the Gel conference immensely. A common refrain I heard among attendees was that the conference is difficult to describe to those who haven’t attended. It is certainly difficult to describe in a sentence or two. I’ll make an attempt to describe it in more than two sentences.
On the first day of the conference, the attendees collect in small groups to take part in a wide variety of activities and tours around the city. That evening there is a party. The formal conference begins the second day.
The second day takes place in a single theater, and all the attendees see the same sequence of speakers. Each speaker is given a strict 20 minute window. Some of the speakers may address the year’s theme, or the general topic of “good experience”, and others, like myself, just yammer on about that thing they are passionate about. Unlike an industry conference, I don’t think a single speaker was there in a PR capacity (unless they were their own employee).
What makes the conference interesting is that the speakers come from a very wide range of disciplines, and the aforementioned 20 minute time limit. This structure provides a very wide range of viewpoints and presentation styles, and also minimizes the risk of boredom. The constant influx of passionate speakers introducing new ideas creates a kind of internal glow among the audience, a feeling of good will and inspiration similar to what I experienced at religious retreats when I was a teenager. It is this very inspiration, that is the principal benefit of the conference, I believe. A lot of the attendees were repeaters, and I imagine they would agree.
To give you an idea of the impressive range of the conference, the speakers this year included a young talented songwriter barely out of college who makes short and hilarious songs based on email requests, an eloquent Anglican nun who spoke of “spiritual junk food”, a public radio host & producer who has brought story telling back to radio, a sculptor who provides urban boat rides with no clear destination, a photographer who makes mosaics that strikingly illustrate human consumption, a documentarian filmmaker, and the inventor of the first handheld game that uses a neural net.
These speakers all appear to have been hand picked by conference organizer Mark Hurst, who obviously knows what he is doing. You can apply for a DVD of the whole conference from the Good Experience website. But I assure you, watching the video is only a pale simulacrum of being there.
Here’s part 2 of my presentation, in which I present the Whitney Music Box.