Reflecting on one of the world’s earliest tradeshows—and a famous early speaker at its meeting.
Imagine it’s 1930, and you’re among the attendees at a major technology conference listening to the opening speaker talk about innovation. Here’s what he says about the communication breakthrough of the time:
“When you hear the radio, think also about … how people have come to possess such a wonderful tool of communication. The origin of all technical achievements is the divine curiosity and the play instinct of the working and thinking researcher, as well as the constructive fantasy of the technical inventor.”
The speaker was Albert Einstein, addressing attendees (and others, via radio) at the 7th German Radio and Audio Show in Berlin. And although the translation from the original German is a little rough, you can detect in his words an early hint of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.
That event later morphed into the German Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin, or IFA, a major European consumer electronics show that celebrated its 90th anniversary in September. To me, that milestone underscores everything that’s exciting about association meetings, particularly the bringing together—repeatedly, over time—of a field’s best minds to solve the day’s most pressing problems.
Even Einstein might be surprised were he to pay a visit to a 21st-century association conference, which we explore in this year’s Meetings Issue. What would he think of its attendee-tracking technologies (page 60), exhibit hall innovations (page 54), and hands-on learning models (page 66)? My guess is he’d approve. And more than 80 years after that speech in Berlin, he’d surely recognize the curiosity and play instinct that define the best association meetings. Some really great things never change.