I went to the New New Internet conference in Reston, VA last week. It was an enjoyable conference that I feel like I got something out of.

But, having been to a couple of tech conferences this year, I think there are some topics and parlor tricks that simply need to be retired They have entered the realm of cliche. So here’s my list of things that made me groan a bit and that I think panelists should avoid doing in the future.

Unless you are Jeff Jarvis, don’t mention Dell Hell. This example was mentioned during three consecutive panels at the New New Internet. Shockingly, I’d heard about it a few times before. Can we please find a new example? Please? I’d also avoid using Robert Scoble as an example of exceptional corporate blogging. His Microsoft work was mentioned on two panels despite the fact that he left there over a year ago. Can’t we find some new stories to tell?

Personally, I think panelists are most interesting when they bring their own experiences to bear instead of retelling anecdotes they’ve accrued from reading lots of blogs. That is why the Wine Library TV guy was one of the more entertaining panelists at the conference – he told his own story.

Please don’t poll the audience about anything. In four of the panels I attended, someone asked the audience a question and asked for a show of hands. Raise your hand if you have a blog. Raise your hand if you have a Facebook account. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Twitter. Maybe I’m alone here, but I really, really don’t want to raise my hand anymore. Generally, the response you get isn’t going to change what you have to say anyway so why bother? As Chuck told me after, why make your audience answer clearly rhetorical questions?

Please don’t Twitter from the stage (or at the very least don’t talk about it if you are). Look at me. I’m crazy. I’m using Twitter on my cell phone while sitting on a panel.  I saw this in two panels, plus in another someone did the trick where he had someone call him during the panel with “news.”  Twitter has been around for a while now. People at these conferences know what it is. Most of the audience would rather have you focus on what you are saying than pounding away on your cell phone.

Frankly, I think I sort of deserved to listen to some of this stuff as I spent the first part of the conference sitting in the main hall listening to panels on topics with which I am already pretty familiar. I had a much better experience later in the day when I sought out panelists and speakers I hadn’t heard before talking about topics that were new to me. Chalk it up to lessons learned.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.