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The Boring Conference?

andrea_lunsford
2 0 666

I just found out that I missed the Fifth Annual Boring Conference, held on May 9, 2015 in Holborn, England. What a bummer!

The Boring Conference began in 2010 after the cancellation of The Interesting Conference. The one-day conference opens at 10:30, and “things start to get boring” very soon afterward; it’s all over by 5:00 and attendees (over 500 this year) are encouraged to get on with their lives. At this year’s meeting, a 7-year-old kid stole the show with his disquisition on elevators (“lifts” to him). But there were many others, like George Egg, who coached listeners on how to compose a meal using nothing but what can be found in motel/hotel rooms. Or there was the presentation on the joys of sleeping out on a British roundabout (merry-go-round). The Boring Conference website provides additional examples: People have talked about sneezing, toast, IBM tills, the sounds made by vending machines, the Shipping Forecast, barcodes, yellow lines, London shop fronts, the television programme Antiques Road Trip and the features of the Yamaha PSR-175 Portatune keyboard.” The Shipping Forecast sounds like a winner to me.

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Source: Boring Conference

Since I’m a teacher of writing, my mind immediately goes to how we could make use of this concept in our classes. I have a colleague who assigns “elevator speeches” to her students, and sends them out to elevators in small groups to see if they can really deliver a compelling overview of their projects between floors. Why not a contest for “most boring elevator speech”? I can also imagine the “boring” concept applied to Pecha Kuchas, to two-minute speeches, to thesis statements – the sky’s the limit!

Of course many of my students would say that they have already listened to Boring Conference winners in many of their college classrooms and lecture halls. So what about a new category on Rate My Professor with an award to “most boring teacher ever?”

My guess is that some of such events would actually end up being interesting, even fun and engaging. So if I try this with my students, I would like to get them to define the line where something interesting swerves into boring, and vice versa. And what are the stylistic and even syntactic characteristics of truly boring prose/speech? Now . . . this is getting interesting!

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.