I am currently on the train back to London after attending the first two days of Reasons.to in Brighton, England. I need to go to pick up my mail that accumulated in my London flat before going back to Berlin and Seattle in a day, otherwise there would be no way I’d not want to see this conference through to the end.
I don’t want to go. Reasons.to is an amazing experience. Let me start by listing the reasons why you should be part of it as an attendee or as a presenter. I will write up a more detailed report on why this year was amazing for me personally later.
Why reasons.to is a great experience for attendees:
Reasons.to is a conference about creative makers that use technology as a tool. It is not a conference about hard-core technical topics or limited to creating the next app or web site. It is a celebration of creativity and being human about it. If you enjoy Beyond Tellerand, this is also very much for you. That’s not by accident – the organisers of both shows are long-term friends and help each other finding talent and getting the right people together.
As such, it demands more of both the presenters and the audience. There are no recordings of the talks, and there is no way to look up later what happened. It is all about the here and now and about everyone at the event making it a memorable experience.
Over and over the organisers remind the audience to use the time to mingle and network and not worry about asking the presenters for more details. There is no Q&A and there is ample time in breaks to ask in person instead. Don’t worry – presenters are coached that this is something to expect at this event and they all agreed.
There is no food catering – you’re asked to find people to join and go out for breaks, lunches and dinners instead. This is a great opportunity to organize yourselves and even for shy people to leave with a group and have a good excuse to get a bit out of their shell.
This is a getting to know and learning about each other event. And as such, there is no need to advertise itself as an inclusive safe space for people. It just is. You meet people from all kind of backgrounds, families arrive with children and all the people involved in putting on the show know each other.
There are no blatant sponsored talks or holy wars about “framework vs. library” or “technology x vs. technology y”. There is no grandstanding about “here is what I did and it will revolutionise our little world”. There is no “I know this doesn’t work yet, but it will be what you need to use else you’d be outdated and you do it wrong”. And most importantly there is no “this is my showreel, am I not amazing” presentations that are sadly enough often what “creative” events end up having.
The organisers are doing a thorough job finding presenters that are more than safe bets to sell tickets or cover the newest hotness. Instead they work hard to find people who have done amazing things and aren’t necessarily that known but deserve to be.
If anything, there is a very refreshing feeling of meeting people whose work you may know from advertising, on trains, TV or big billboards. And realizing that these are humans and humble about their outrageous achievements. And ready to share their experiences and techniques creating them – warts and all.
The organisers have a keen eye on spotting talent that is amazing but not quite ready to tell the world about it and then making them feel welcome and excited about sharing their story. All the presenters are incredibly successful in what they do, yet none of them are slick and perfect in telling their story. On the contrary, it is very human to see the excitement and how afraid some of these amazing people are in showing you how they work.
Reasons.to is not an event where you will leave with a lot of new and immediately applicable technical knowledge. You will leave, however, with a feeling that even the most talented people are having the same worries as you. And that there is more to you if you just stop stalling and allow yourself to be more creative. And damn the consequences.
Why reasons.to is a great idea for presenters
As a presenter, I found this conference to be incredibly relaxed. It is an entity, it is a happening that is closed in itself without being elitist.
Not having video recordings and having a very low-traffic social media backchannel might be bad for your outside visibility and makes it harder to show the impact you had to your manager. But it makes for a much less stressful environment to present in. Your job is to inspire and deal with the audience at the event, not to deliver a great, reusable video recording or deal with people on social media judging you without having seen you performing or being aware of the context in which you said something.
You have a chance to be yourself. A chance to not only deliver knowledge but share how you came by it and what you did wrong without having to worry about disappointing an audience eager for hard facts. You can be much more vulnerable and human here than at other – more competitive – events.
You need to be ready to be available though. And to spend some extra time in getting to know the other presenters, share tips and details with the audience and to not be a performer that drops in, does the show and moves on. This event is a great opportunity not only to show what you did and want people to try, but it is also a great event to stay at and take in every other talk. Not to compare, but to just learn about people like you but with vastly different backgrounds and approaches.
There is no place for ego at this event. That’s a great thing as it also means that you don’t need to be the perfect presenter. Instead you’re expected to share your excitement and be ready to show mistakes you made. As you would with a group of friends. This is refreshing and a great opportunity for people who have something to show and share but aren’t quite sure if the stage is theirs to command.