Most conferences tend to be boring, although not intentionally so. But there is one event that is deliberately dedicated to all things dull and tedious – the ‘Boring Conference’ hosted every year at London. Believe it or not, it’s a sell-out event where attendees are treated to talks on all sorts of boring things like paper bags, toilet roll quality control, lamp posts, and bricks.
How did such a thing as a Boring Conference come to exist, you ask? Well, it all started in 2010, when the man in charge of organizing an even called the Interesting Conference canceled the whole thing, saying that he was too busy. James Ward, an English book author and marketer, replied to the announcement, saying that he liked boring things and that they should be celebrated too. His social media post got a lot of people interested in a possible event about boring things and he started getting questions about where to buy tickets for it. That year, Ward organized the world’s first Boring Conference.
This year’s Boring Conference, held at London’s Conway Hall on 7 May, was the sixth consecutive event in the last six years and all 425 tickets were sold out in just a few days. Ward always opens up the event himself, because he likes to “set the bar low”. If people start with poor expectations, then the show can only improve, he says. Last year, he spoke about postcard photos of the old Post Office Tower.
Photo: Boring Conference/Facebook
According to the event’s website, “The Boring Conference is a one-day celebration of the mundane, the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked; subjects often considered trivial and pointless, but when examined more closely reveal themselves to be deeply fascinating.”
Past topics of discussion at the Boring Conference have included – sneezing, IBM tills, toast, vending machine sounds, barcodes, the Shipping Forecast and other such topics of no interest to anyone. This year’s event had 20 speakers cover similar snoozeworthy subjects – such as the domestic inkjet printers of 1999, German film titles, cooking elaborate meals with hotel room equipment, and the similarities between the world’s national anthems – in 10-minute slots.
Photo: Boring Conference/Facebook
If you’re wondering about the purpose of such a pointless conference, Ward says that it’s meant to be “a one-day celebration of the mundane, the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked.” He adds that the topics covered may be considered “trivial and pointless, but when you look at them more closely, they reveal themselves to be actually deeply fascinating.” So it’s actually only the topics that are boring – the speakers are expected to find a way to make their talks interesting.
“The basic idea is that the theme needs to be boring, but the content shouldn’t be,” explained Ward, who works in marketing and has also written a book called Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case. “There has to be something in the topic that a speaker with a real enthusiasm for it can bring out and make interesting. In fact most things, if you look at them in enough detail, can become fascinating. There’s almost always something there.”
So in the past, a talk about electric hand dryers has been made made interesting with a story about “a man so fascinated by them that he had installed a Dyson Airblade in his house.” And a speaker scheduled to talk about the relative weights and densities of different kinds of metals enthralled the audience by rollerblading around the hall the entire time. It’s no wonder that the Boring Conference is sold out every year, then!