The programme flyers said it all: flashes of colour everywhere announced: Longer coffee breaks! More time for networking! The conference organisers knew what they were doing (well, they were from the Association of Exhibition Organisers).
People don't go to conferences for the speakers. They go for a break from the office, a break from the kids, a chance to make some new connections, drink too much and flirt in the hotel bar at 3am.
Most corporate events are terrible. Rooms without windows, presenters without personalities, coffee without flavour. Yet still the conference business booms. Partly for the obvious personal reasons - but also because as social beings we are drawn to gatherings of our peers. Conferences, events and exhibitions are the modern equivalent of festivals in old market towns - an excuse to band together and play.