Are you suffering from Event Fatigue?

I have a confession to make.

I did not attend Megapolis this year, the very popular event for urban community builders and activists organized by Dodo. It’s the first time since – I don’t remember when – that I haven’t gone. And I don’t think I’m the only one who skipped out and feels guilty, knowing how enlightening, fruitful and stimulating previous Megapolises have been. Admit it: how many of you have clicked ‘Join’ when invited to an event on Facebook, knowing full well that you’re unlikely to go?

The phrase ‘event fatigue’ has been bandied about lately; with this year’s combination of World Design Capital (including Living+), Alternative Design Capital, and a generally very active, energetic bunch of cultural groups, some of us who both organize events and like to attend them are becoming a bit weary. We need some time, to be with our friends and family, to do laundry and yardwork, to hole away and just think. “Time to reflect! Please!” said one friend dramatically not long ago. We need to remember why we are organizing these events in the first place, whether they are lectures, seminars, workshops or hackathons. What was our goal? Did we reach it? If we didn’t quite succeed, why? What will make it better next time? Did we see any surprising results?

Luckily I am almost at the end of my ‘organizer’ responsibilities, having arranged numerous discussion events on ‘sustainable maker culture‘ at the WDC Pavilion as well as various sessions in the recent Open Knowledge Festival. Some of the best stuff is yet to come, like WÄRK:fest in the Cable Factory in a couple of weeks – luckily there my only duty is to help document it: see who comes and who exhibits, find good stories and fun maker action, and enjoy the fair.

And then I’m looking forward to holing up in a quiet corner and reviewing what happened this year. What results did I get in terms of research data? What new thoughts and new connections arose for the participants themselves? Did they learn something new or gain a new angle on something? Did they make any useful contacts? What points of interest are surprising, that I should explore further?  Is there a new way to deal with the topic next time, that will yield more surprise, more findings, or more depth?

Somehow the process of reflecting on events is a little like writing – for a blog, or as a journalist. Jumping from blog entry to blog entry – from one event to another – can be inspirational: quoting this, linking to that, throwing questions out, introducing people or contexts to each other….

But sometimes you just need that Long Read or the long think or the long write: that well investigated, well written piece that carries you from thought to thought and theme to theme like a clever museum guide… broad when you need to see the whole picture and profound when you want to deep dive into something important or unfamiliar, backed up with theoretical foundations, empirical evidence and common sense.

I suspect that this process of stepping back and stepping out, internalizing and digesting, will ultimately be healthier for us, physically, mentally, cognitively – like a good Slow Food meal. And it is bound to enhance our ability to organize and participate in community building events in future, allowing us to concentrate better and really listen and learn.

In the meantime, have you bought your tickets for WÄRK:fest yet??