Why Even See Keynote Speakers? Why Not Just Read Their Books?
In a recent conversation, David Lavin, president of The Lavin Agency speakers bureau, told Misha Glouberman, co-author of The Chairs Are Where the People Go, that conferences are a “collective intellectual experience.” They are unlike anything else. “Best-case scenario, [participants] get their brains turned on, they’re engaged. They’re actually energized, and they talk to each other.” Starting life as a promoter of live literary events, David Lavin talked about the afterglow that comes from in-person events: “After a lecture, people would walk out, and they’d be discussing what they heard: ‘He said this—what do you think? Or she said that.’ They’re having a discussion. They’re sharing an intellectual conversation.”
At the best conferences, people get to meet other interesting people. They get to ask a stranger, “What did you think of that? That was an interesting idea. I’ve never met you before in my life, let’s talk about it.” In explaining the difference between seeing something live and something at home, David Lavin offered this: “Live performance is radically different than what you watch [on a screen].” A Springsteen concert may be life-changing in person, but, on DVD, maybe not so much. “Live theater,” he concludes, “is boring on television, but compelling live—because there’s a different level of engagement when you’re talking to an audience.” “Thinking is fun,” Lavin tells Glouberman at one point. “At least if you do it right.”