The AAI Montreal Conference in a nutshell
A few fans asked me if I could share my thoughts about the Atheist Alliance International Conference that took place last weekend. As some of you know (and most of you will once you listen to the last podcast), we were asked to do the live podcast for the event. Considering there was no valid excuse NOT to do it, I accepted, even though I had never actually stepped foot in a conference before, let alone an atheist one.
Luckily, I had my trusty co-hosts Ryan and Jeff along for the fun, which eased the stress of doing a show in front of a live audience. We knew going in we’d be relative unknowns, but considering the usual tone of the podcast, I was nervous the reaction from the crowd might be utter shock or dismay. The average age of that audience was about 50, but luckily, everyone seemed to have a good sense of humor and the show went a lot better than I had imagined (or was it feared?), with Ryan overhearing positive comments from some of the attendees.
After the show I was approached by Larry over at Sandwalk who invited all of us to have diner with PZ Myers and a couple from the Center for Inquiry Ottawa. The hotel bar, which had already stolen 40 dollars from us with their overpriced beers (at 10 bucks a pop), managed to take more of our money, although this time we ordered the cheapest thing we could on the menu. The meal was completely ordinary, although the service itself was probably even more atrocious than their prices. It took forever to get our damn bills.
Daniel Dennet was speaking the next morning at 8, but we were all too zonked to make it. Instead we headed out after lunch, catching the tail end of the day’s talks. Jeff and I stuck around waiting for the big dinner, which was supposed to play parts of my interview with Susan Jacoby, but due to technical difficulties it ended up being scrapped. They then showed a movie, “The Evangelist” which cleared the room faster than a dirty-bomb scare, and by the time of the dance party, everyone had vamoosed. I tried doing a few break-dancing moves for laughs, and Jonathan Jerry (the AAI’s photographer) took a few pictures of us striking a pose. After working up a sweat, we headed out with some patrons from Saskatoon and drank till the wee hours of the morning. I was so hung over I missed the entire Sunday lineup. Yep, I suck something fierce.
All in all, it was a great first experience, but I have to say something in the format left me with the impression conferences aren’t really designed to attract a younger crowd. I could count on one hand the amount of people who were in their early 20’s. It made me realize if we’re going to make an impact on the next generation, we have to find a way to entice young people. The hard-core supporters aren’t getting any younger, and we need new blood!