I began writing this blogpost to answer the question for general managers, “Why attend Tech Con?” But, I think the better question is, “Why not TechCon?”
Why wouldn’t we want to participate in the conference where the future of the industry is discussed?
In a few years I will celebrate 30 years in public media and what continues to fuel my passion for this industry, besides the mission, is the lifelong learning. Nothing in our industry is staying static, so the opportunity for new models, to rethink what it means to be a media organization, are learning moments for all of us, no matter your position. We are leading in a tsunami of change and while the mission of service media might be clear to all, how it’s implemented is being interpreted in as many ways as we have stations.
TechCon is one stop shopping for learning how to navigate this future. We are not just broadcast entities anymore. This is apparent from the session at this year’s conference where attendees responded to what are the “Three Big Questions” to be successful in public media. Of the more than 400 answers, five were about broadcast. The hottest topics were funding, audience and technology.
I would suggest that these are topics that need to be grappled with by our leadership and why it’s important for more GMs and station leaders to attend. TechCon is not the sole purview of the engineers, technical and digital staff anymore. The platforms, technology, software and ideas we will pursue to create/distribute content and engage audiences is a leadership concern and all of our responsibility.
When I attend TechCon, I’m pulled out of my comfort zone and into sessions and conversations where I sometimes think I can hear the synapses in my brain firing. It’s one of the few places I go as a leader in public media where I do a lot more listening than talking. I am shown so many new things, that I can follow up on and google or ask my favorite engineer when I get home. The best thing, is a month or so after the conference, I’m inevitably in a conversation about something I’ve learned at TechCon and I’m able to contribute because I was exposed to this new idea or technology.
Even in these changing times, mission, technology and talented people continue to be the foundation that our industry is based on. What has changed, is how quickly we must respond to remain relevant to an audience that both continues to diversify personally and diversify how it consumes media.
Since TechCon began including the digital track three years ago the diversification in attendees has slowly increased as the stations’ digital staff are often younger, both male and female and people of color. For the success of our industry, I think we need to build on this diversification by continuing to see this group expand and grow attendees from the C-level station staff, both men and women. TechCon provides a platform for the leaders to learn from their staff as they’re often more familiar with the new technologies and processes. What a great way to mentor up and down.
Before I ran the PTMMG, I worked for 25 years at KPBS in San Diego. Early in my career, my boss told me to figure out this “web thing” and create a plan for our station. This was in the mid-‘90s. Because my boss understood the web was going to be something, and I loved lifelong learning and wasn’t afraid to dip my toes into tech, KPBS was an early adopter. By stretching our skills, experimenting and embracing the unknown, the station became a leader in digital, because it started early and wasn’t afraid to try.
TechCon introduces all of us to what’s next and what might be passing us by. It forces attendees to, if not embrace, learn about the unknown and opens minds to what we should be thinking about as we lead our stations. As the conference celebrates its 40th year next April in Vegas, what could be better than saying “Why not TechCon?” and join us on the journey to answer the the “Next Big Question” about the future of our beloved industry.