"Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely."--Edward Tufte
How Harvey Mackay saved the day!
I have been going to Direct Marketing Days New York (DMDNY) for 40 years.
In the early days, the conference was held every year at the Hilton Hotel & Towers. The booths on the exhibit floors seemed jammed together and the aisles narrow so you had to bump into people and make eye contact. The speakers had all rehearsed their presentations down to a gnat's eyebrow. The seminar rooms were mostly small, which meant a SRO crowd. The electricity in the air was palpable.
But DMDNY got greedy to get bigger. It moved to perhaps the dreariest venue in the world, the Javits Center on the far West Side of Manhattan. The place is so grotesquely out of the way that the lines of people waiting in 90-degree heat for taxis can stretch half the length of a football field. No decent restaurant is anywhere nearby. The final knife in the gut of the conference was its acquisition by the Direct Marketing Association, an organization that apparently judges the success of a convention by how much real estate the exhibit hall can cover.
Instead of an intimate, high energy gathering, it has become a listless, sparsely attended affair with wide aisles, little eye contact and exhibitors spending much of the time talking to one another.
But what is really killing it is PowerPoint.
Reporting on a conference
My favorite technique in covering a convention is to drop in on every session, wait for a pithy, information-rich quote delivered with relish that elicits gasps of astonishment from a surprised audience. Then I move on to the next session. The result, a story filled with hot quotes that not only fascinate the reader but also generates interest in the presenters and their services.
On day one of DMDNY, I attended the keynote session in the early morning. The opening address was by Donald Evans, former Secretary of Commerce. He was elegantly dressed and had stage presence, but his delivery was so-so. After a few pleasantries, he announced the meat of his talk--how optimistic he was about the U.S. economy and all the wonderful things Bush 43 was doing for it. In my opinion, the current Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, is an articulate, charismatic, Horatio Alger-type guy who would keep my fingers flying across the keyboard at 65 wpm for the full 50 minutes. Alas, his predecessor came across as an empty suit--out of office and parroting the same information I get from the 20 or more news sources I scour every morning about an administration he was not a part of. It was clear Donald Evans would not be making any news, so I left.