EDIT (cos I forgot there are non-Australians out there who wander into this blog) Senator Helen Coonan, Federal Minister for umm telecommunications and umm IT things, keynoted at a small conference CommunIT (Not for Profit IT) conference in small-town Adelaide, South Australia on BroadBand for Rural Australia. She spoke and left with no question-time.

Ack, I should’ve written this up earlier when it was all fresh and pumping. Is that why blogs are so darn addictive? Anyway, here goes.

Politics have to change the way they “use” conferences and events to launch their bits of paper. I’m serious. Preaching to a small group of not-for-profits (NFPs) about broadband speed and stuff is just plain rude. Most NFPs are struggling to get computers for use in their office, let alone to the homes of people who haven’t got food or education or … homes.

See, traditional politics is used to traditional media. And they ‘work’ with them this way.
Question: “Mr Howard, are you going to sack Senator XYZ,the Police dude?”
Answer: “We are very proud to launch our new direction in Healthcare and dental hygiene”
ie. ignore the question, treat the audience as earballs with no voice and just say whatever you want to say.

Because the viewer/voter at home is just a pair of eyeballs who expects to understand the world in 20 minutes (including sport) through the almighty Evening News, and goodness knows, the journalist isn’t important, the program editing person deletes everything either side of the quotable quote. A little soundbite makes it on the radio or telly. This is how life was. And it was good. If you were a polly, you could front up to a conference that had absolutely-fricking nothing to do with your portfolio, preach to a room and run. Paper launched, a few quotes for the press, and off to morning tea. (Nope, neither she nor the opposition groover stayed for questions).

But it’s not like that anymore. Well, it is, but it’s changing. Bitching on about the Opposition and Telstra in a Not for Profit seminar is getting downright dangerous. If it was a developers conference or something Whirlpool.net.au was hosting, fair enough. But at a NFP? I think someone said, “Oh there must be an IT or developers conference on during the week we launch BroadBand in Regional Australia – Making a Difference, we’ll shove her on there”.

I’m not saying that it wasn’t interesting for me personally because it was – I was on the 3G panel in 1999/2000 (yes, 3G really HAS been around for 8 years), was a public speaker on fibre networks for Optus in the early 90’s and worship telecommunications. I’m a bit of an kooky one tho. Others in the room would’ve been mildly interested. The majority wouldn’t have given a rats. And any way you look at it, the talk didn’t speak to the core of what the conference was about. Except a reference to a 2005 paper about KidsHelp and Depressionet. Of course we all had varying technical skills and interests but.. it’s still a dangerous thing to do. Front a group of bloggers and present with only self-interest in mind, and you are going to get walloped sooner or later.

Reminds me of the CEO that Scoble talks about in Naked Conversations. I don’t remember the guy’s name or company (typical!) but he used his on-stage time at a big conference to whinge and whine about everything that was making it hard for him to run his business (competitor, technology, whatnot). The bloggers got hold of him and by the time he had got off stage, completely oblivious, the blogosphere had already voted on him, his products/services, and his company. I don’t think they survived. Anyone remember who the dude was? My point was… ah… yes. If your audience has a voice to talk back, make sure that your presentation to a conference is incredibly relevant and not patronising. Failures no longer sit unmentioned in the ‘feedback box’ under the front desk; they are made public. I’m pretty forgiving of most things but this sort of politicking does get my goat. dander up, knickers twisted. whatevs. (and no, I’m not a brilliant presenter, but I do care about my audience and what their concerns might be *cuddles*)

You go listen to Auntie Helen’s podcast (third of the way down) or read the transcript and tell me what you think. This is not a slam of Helen Coonan, but a general indictment on the whole politics industry. So tell me, am I being unfair?

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