Now we are talking…talking coworking

Day 2, Coworking Europe Conference and Copass Camp Dublin.

I am still here, day 2 of a conference, WTF. So yesterday was mixed, the morning was painful for me, too much jargon, serviced offices, real estate and slides, with exception of Hector’s amazing and very funny slides in his ‘best of the day’ talk.

The evening was great, we had a small group connecting over dinner and sharing and chatting. The human element that keeps bringing me back to Copass camps.

I knew today would be good. It is, sorry to break into jargon, unconferencing day, open sessions put together by the participants and this is the real practical, knowledge sharing stuff, that has huge value. Listening to people who are doing it.

The other thing that signified a good day was ahead, we started off learning 5 different handshakes and practicing them on each other. Great physical human connection, this is what is often missing from conferences and life.

One of the first sessions, which was a session suggested by Bernie, Jeanine and me, was an open group discussion simply based on the struggles/problems that small independent coworking spaces face. The dirty end of coworking as opposed to the 5 million-member super shiny desk factories, filled to the brim with their happy shiny people sitting in leather sofas, perfectly chilled, and sipping their low fat chipa-mocha-latte-cinos polishing their investor-ready slide decks on their Macs(OK so that’s sounding a little bitter Philip).

The discussion was passionate, and I felt it could have gone for another hour with topics ranging from noise, commisions, optimum size for a coworking space to work, cleaning, loneliness, and a few more. Talking about the everyday lives of a struggling space owner.

I then moved onto a session discussing systems, software, invoicing, platforms and so on. Not an area I know much about, admitting again in public that I don’t know everything. Again, an open discussions, with some very short pitches from software providers. I realise from this session that I’ve been a complete idiot running a coworking space for 5 years without software to manage it. Wow, I love this listening and learning stuff.

OK, so I am going to spare you the complete blow-by-blow of each session. The point is, this is what makes me want to come to conferences, shared real human stories.

Real human connections, not a person talking at me or worse still reading a slide that I can read myself.

Day 2 has been fab, it has been great learning, thanks to all the people who shared their knowledge and stories.

I’m in a panic…the conference starts today

I’ve arrived at Croke Park, I’m in a panic. There’s a huge room with 5,000 seats in rows, with a stage and a screen, you see I knew it.

Then there are banners and stalls of people who are going to attempt to sell me stuff I do not need.

I’ve found sanctuary in a corner to write, just 25 minutes to go to hell…another conference.

The show kicked off with The Lord Mayor of Dublin, wow, not often you get a Lord Mayor to open a conference, although I was expecting him to cut a ribbon or smash a bottle of champagne on the lectern ‘I name this conference…’

So my initial panic subsided and then it turned to OMG I was right, I don’t do conferences. Powerpoint has been the flavour of the morning so far. To be fair, it is difficult to satisfy 400+ people with content that everyone is going to find interesting, especially, arsey people like me.

OK so, it is easy to criticise, that adds no value, and no one twisted my arm to come, well maybe that bloody Bernie did. It is not the critic that counts.

It’s a bit like watching a football match and saying ‘I could have scored that’ or watching a film and saying ‘I could have done better’. The reality is unless you are a pro-football player or a real film-maker, you’re unlikely to do better. Nothing is that easy and the brave people who are the ones who step into the ring.

Step into the ring then Philip if you think you can do better! Eric asked as I typed ‘are you bitching?’, maybe it will come across like that but that’s not my intention. My intention is to give feedback and my viewpoint, which is neither right or wrong, just a viewpoint.

11 am now we have a panel discussion, this is getting better, wait, there are 2 serviced office operators on a panel at a coworking conference. Coworking is already 2 different things, one is a wolf in sheep clothing, Regus and WeWork are serviced officing, real estate desk factories, and then there are independent coworking spaces.

Perhaps the conference needs to be divided, real estate and coworking. This will enable people to choose what is of interest to them. As I said, it is hard to satisfy the interests of all 400 + people. Perhaps this comes later, so be patient, stop your judging.

I had a very interesting chat with Thanh of Desk Lodge, who was the first person to convince me that scale and coworking could be good and that they weren’t another desk factory. See, I can have an open mind.

Although I do have to say that I feel like I have bumped my head and woken up back in my commercial real estate world that I left to get involved in coworking over 5 years ago.

Maybe I’m the one who is wrong, this dream of coworking being different is just a mirage and it is just real estate with a beard after all.

Lunchtime, food always lifts the mood. Not the food actually, although it was very good food, the conversation while eating. I had some great chats over lunch, the highlight so far. The real human connections, the real stories of the people at a conference, listening and learning.

I feel energised for the afternoon, I feel the soul has been nourished by the energy of others passion. Let’s hope that we move on from real estate to the human element of coworking.

Ok, so now it’s getting good, smaller sessions this afternoon, more tailored to different interests, and I have found one that interests me. It’s about coworking, finally. Ok, so there are still slides, however, not someone reading slides, but saying something interesting.

The session is interactive, well-done Satellite Inc, the audience, who often are as knowledgeable as the speakers, are getting a chance to share. I’m taking notes, I’m learning, I’m getting value for money. This is really useful applicable stuff. We have limited time, we need to fill it with valuable things.

Conferences are like events, we don’t want slides and generic info, chit-chat with free beer and pizza, we have all done these events to death. We want really applicable useful stuff that we can use to improve our business and we want to be able to interact.

Well, one day in, I’ve not headed off to find the sightseeing bus tours, yet.