Steve's out there doing seminars all the time, he's probably the most in-demand speaker on the corporate communication circuit and obviously he knows which way the wind is blowing. He's also a hopeless ADD case himself, and can clearly empathize with diddling tweeters everywhere.
But to the extent that I can imagine a conference and a college classroom world where the students no longer feign attention, I can also imagine many burnt-out teachers who stop pretending to give a flying fuck, and do a five-minute intro and then turn it over to Q&A.
The purpose of a conference and a classroom is as much social as informational. There's no best-practice that you can learn at a conference that you can't learn by reading an industry newsletter, no facts that you can learn in a classroom that can't be found in the text.
The reasons we have these events are 70 percent social. And social means more than networking. It means sitting together with people who do what we do, and all listening to the same speaker at the same time. Getting excited together, getting bored together, getting pissed together, sitting up straight together, slumping in our chairs together, being overwhelmed together.
If half the assholes are going to be checked out reading their e-mail and surfing the web, then we're not together at all, are we?
And whether the instructor minds it or not, the rest of us are missing the whole reason they came.
If I'm overstating the case, I'm sure everyone will let me know.