I attended the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery07 event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre yesterday, May 1, 2007. Is it worthy of mention? One major wow moment: disembodied 3D holographic virtual Ray Kurzweil addressing the audience live from the podium:
Take me to your leader.
The Good, the Bad and the Indifferent after the jump…
The Good: Great Thinkers
The #1 reason I went to this event was to see Richard Florida. Then I heard about Kurzweil and Homer-Dixon, which sealed the deal. I was impressed by OCE’s speaker selections. These three thinkers are something of a holy trinity for me: Homer-Dixon (sometimes referred to as “Dr. Doom”) tells a cautionary tale of an increasingly complex future and a civilization at risk of collapse; Kurzweil offers a techno-utopian vision of exponential technological progress leading to the singularity and Florida describes a new and emerging economic and social paradigm – the creative class and creative age that is quickly usurping the industrial age as the driver of economic development.
My work and interests lie in the space between these ideas, their intersections and debates, where culture & creativity, technology and public policy collide. How do we solve the problems of the future? How can technology help us? How do we tap the creative potential of each and every one of us? Great material and I was glad to see and hear them in-person, or whatever you’d call virtual Kurzweil.
The Bad: No free wireless.
The Metro Toronto Convention Centre should be ashamed of their wireless Internet access pricing policies. Technology bloggers in attendance could not access the internet from the show floor. The only way to have wifi on the floor is to pay $395 per day for a wireless internet account(!), like exhibitors were forced to do. Many of the exhibitors were student researchers and startup companies. Wireless access effectively doubled the cost of their space on the trade show floor. Disgusting.
Guests’ only option was a 3rd-party commercial wifi provider 2 levels up at $10/hour. This is inexcusable in 2007. Inside the MTCC, I felt like I had been transported back to the land that time forgot. Several of us left the venue in search of a decent coffee, sweet power and wifi. This is time we could have been talking to exhibitors.
Instead of looking at their wireless offering as an incremental revenue opportunity, MTCC could be leading by offering ubiquitous wifi that is reliable, cheap and easy to provision for any event. This is basic required infrastructure to support blog coverage, follow-on mainstream media coverage, enhanced visitor experiences and better results to attendees and exhibitors.
Why do I even have to explain this? It insults us both, dear reader.
The Indifferent: The Trade Show = Dead Media
Traditional trade shows feel increasingly irrelevant. The more abstract and “knowledge-intensive” the thing you are trying to “display” is, the more difficult it will be to connect with an audience in any meaningful way. After a very short while, every busy technical diagram large-format poster on a trade show booth divider looks identical. It all blurs together into a meaningless mush of undifferentiated experience.
In response to a question from Sara Diamond, President of OCAD, Florida stated that “it is incumbent upon technology and science to reach out to arts, design and media to make their innovations meaningful to people, to customers”. The trade show format is certainly well past its expiry date. If organizations like OCE are interested in creating a meaningful buzz around Ontario’s innovators, then this is a perfect opportunity to reinvent the trade show by bringing some creativity, design thinking and community-driven energy to the table.
Make it worth talking about!!
I do not know what OCE’s barometers of success are, but as far as I can tell I am the only blogger who picked up the event, i.e. it was unremarkable. A search on Technorati, Google News and Google Blogsearch shows nothing on either blogs or MSM sources. This must be a source of concern for OCE when it evaluates the event.
Less emphasis on creating speaking platforms for politicians and government agencies and more emphasis on visitor experience and compelling content could actually get the message out there (a message I believe in): the best innovative minds are Canadian and many of the best of them work here in a place called Ontario, ready to take on the world.