Allan Takes Aim Blog

The importance of experience

Posted on: 30 September 2009

Posted “The Chronicle” Canberra, Tuesday 16 September, 2009 

Apart from showing the age of miracles hasn’t yet passed, people who manage to get senior executive positions in Canberra without being an ex politician, political adviser, senior bureaucrat, or being close to people of influence at the big end of town, without demonstrating their conference attending experience, should count themselves lucky. Indeed, if their CV didn’t show they had this experience, getting the job was surely a miracle. For example: if 24 people apply for an executive position the odds against someone without conference attending qualifications getting the job, would be 25-1.

You might think this unfair but, particularly in Canberra, executives who think a conference is simply an opportunity to get away from either wife or husband or a short holiday are in for a few rude shocks. First they will find that finding that attending a conferences isn’t easy; that it requires hard work and stamina to listen, time after time, to the same speeches being delivered by a variety of speakers even if some speak better than others.

In fact, if the Olympics had a conference -attending event, I know of some people in Canberra who could give the other competitors a start and still easily win the gold medal.

Conference attending is tough as is the training programme.  First, you train to stay awake during dull speeches. Second, when it comes to eating you also need to look as if you’re enjoying the canapés with names that no one recognises (including the chef), or the more usual hors d’oevres made from leftovers. Third, you’ll need enterprise, so that rather than try to look happy with the most expensive lunch of rubber chicken or rare roast beef with Brussels sprouts and carrots you’ll ever be expected to eat, you get a steak.

You’ll also need to learn hand language and punctuation. For example: when emphasising that you know what you’re talking about you make fists of your hands and put them in front of you while curling and uncurling the first finger of both hands.

What sparked this column was my attendance at a tourism conference. There’s no doubt about it: if you’ve been to one tourism conference you’ve been to them all. Within minutes of arrival one gets an overwhelming sense of “déjà vu,” a phrase coined by a bored Frenchman or Frenchwoman after attending his/her second tourism conference.

Not that tourism conferences are on their own; they have lots of competitors such as conferences that deal with important subjects such as: “How to become rich in two days” or, “How to Double Your Investment Income in Five Easy Lessons.” More recently however, many other of conferences with titles such as “How To Make The Internet Work For You” or similar, are trying to muscle in on the conference scene. 

A word of warning to people attending a conference for the first time: it would be wise to take the advice of regular attendees. The reason? They have friends who, after taking lessons from the ‘expert’ speaker at a conference on how to double their investment income, ended up paying for a hundred lessons and, instead of becoming rich, became bankrupt. And as for those who took lessons hoping to learn how to make the internet work for them, many have ended up having weekly sessions on a psychiatrist’s couch. 

Some people might think I am being cynical saying déjà vu? But I’m not. I’m simply using the French saying to help make the point that conferences are good events because they can help extend your vocabulary. This happens because speakers use different words to say what you’ve heard many times before. Unfortunately, what they say usually doesn’t advance your knowledge of the subject.

Politicians are the best examples I can think of to demonstrate this last point. They say they deliver the same speech using different words because they are paid so badly they can’t afford a speech writer.

And now I will be cynical. A politician once told me had ten variations of a speech that lasted him for a parliamentary term. Perhaps so; but let me suggest, even more cynically, that probably ten speeches would last most politicians a lifetime.


1 Response to "The importance of experience"

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