The word “conference” does little to send a shiver of excitement down the spine. And so, perhaps because of an almost-tautology, there’s something very intriguing about “A Boring Conference”, the title of a gathering held last weekend at Conway Hall in London.
Advertised as “celebration of the mundane, the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked”, the fourth annual event featured “Paint drying: the Movie” and lectures on inkjet printers, “how dull ditchwater really is”, and “Why Connect Four isn’t broadcast on the radio”.
And, actually, it all looks pretty interesting.
Tim Dowling of the Guardian spoke to organiser James Ward:
It all started in 2010, when Ward learned that something called the Interesting Conference had been cancelled, and jokingly tweeted that he would put on a Boring Conference instead. “The moral of the story is never to joke on the internet,” he said. “Someone will say: ‘That sounds good’, and then you’ll have to do it” …
[Ward] accepts that booking speakers can be a delicate matter. “I always say the theme is boring but the content isn’t,” he says. But the name also inoculates the event against incidental tediousness. “If anything goes wrong,” says Ward, “I can kind of go: ‘Well, it did say on the ticket’.” And no one has ever complained about an insufficiency of tedium. “It would take a particular type of person to go to an event and enjoy it and then complain that they enjoyed it,” he says. “So I basically have a zero refunds policy.”
Blogger Diamond Geezer has summarised all the sessions here.
He liked them all – except the talk on inkjet printers.
There’s always one speaker at every Boring Conference who misses the point, and is ramblingly tedious rather than interestingly dull, and then goes on painfully longer than his slot deserves. Marc [Dean Quinn]’s non-illustrated routine about obsolete printer technology, with ill-advised audience participation and no planned script, was this year’s example.
And, you never know, New Zealand might have a spinoff before long.
See also: Bad opinions – six of the best