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All talk but where’s the action? Conference Overkill in Bangkok

Hey say. Are you going to that event next week? No, not that one, the other one! Even though that one sounds cool too. Or that one the day after and the other one the week after and those others in the following weeks….

The startup scene keeps buzzing and buzzing over here in (Southeast) Asia and Bangkok keeps developing more and more into the hub for all things tech. Sure, Singapore is ‘faster’ and hosts a fair share of ‘cool’ events but Bangkok is not far away and in some aspect even already further ahead when it comes down to tech conference / meetup density.

And it does make sense. We got it all. We got the companies that need this environment, we got co-working spaces the facilitate players in that area, we got capital that needs to be invested and we got the people eager to prove that they can hang with the best.  And we got at least one more thing: Talks. A lot of them.

You didn’t go to that event? Why?

The sheer amount of conference, meetup or whatever it’s been called these days to sound cool invitations I receive on a weekly basis is insane. And if I already feel like this, more important people will certainly have a similar or even more flooded inbox. And that’s where I now feel a bit like experiencing a deja vu. I remember when I left Europe for Thailand one of the reasons that drove me away from that cool, buzzing and hip scene was the amount of BS conferences and talks one had to attend, the hands you had to shake and time you had to waste in order to stay ‘connected’ and ‘informed’ even though almost never anything substantial would be said during such events.

Now, years later, the other side of the world, same feeling. When I check my facebook feed all I see are conference and event check-ins, pictures, (terribly bad) presentations and so on. Besides feeling annoyed by that (sure, I could easily change that and unfollow all of the people that post stuff like that) I also ask myself the same question over and over again. When do those people actually do their work?

As someone who does presentations, talks, lecturers, etc. for a living I do understand that such things can be fun and rewarding (as long as those aren’t panels) but they also need a lot of preparation and one can only say so much that counts as new and inspiring. Especially when there are lots of similar events following each other. So we got the time issue and the ‘i have to find a cool topic issue’. The latter, of course, again, takes time. That leaves two options: Either all of the speakers either always say the same (boring) or tune down on the quality of their presentations (worse than boring) in order to make it on time.

I tried to attend lot of startup, web, entrepreneurial events for quite a while and found that both of the aforementioned problems were present. Presenters very often didn’t seem to give a fuck whether or not they already presented those slides two weeks ago since hey, they were asked to present again or whether or not the quality was shit. Without exaggerating I think 83% of presentations I’ve seen over the past two years have been terrible. Either content or presentation wise. Or both.

So if that’s the case, why are there still more and more events added to the calendar and why do people still go? Well, for the obvious reasons. To ‘network’ (worst invention in event history) and to, well, show off and, again, to network. Is there anyone really interested in sharing knowledge? I doubt it. And if, then this person will probably leave the event rather sooner than later after realizing that nothing of substance will be shared by speakers on stage. It’s all about exchanging contacts and pats on each others backs. And the media pays into it and hypes average events as groundbreaking happenings because we all know, not just since Donald Trump, that the louder and more often you say something, the more people believe it’s true.

To be honest, after 5 years here, I do see a lot of improvement and some really cool startups emerging but I also see lots of potential to repeat mistakes (remember the e-commerce and dotcom bubble burst?) that have been done elsewhere before. The willingness to ignore this development and the implications are also something that are quite upsetting. It’s like we’re steering directly into the fire because hey, it’s so nice warm and comforting on the way there. Let’s just wait who gets burned first.

Do you agree? Disagree? Are you attending all those Startup-, Tech-, and In- Events? Shout out in the comments. 


Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at My-Thai.org
Sascha is the publisher of my-thai.org and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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