Wipeout: Join my campaign against one verb conference names

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Figure 1.0: What can go wrong when Biblical verbs are functionally shifted, nominalised, or gerunded, then homophoned, and removed from context…

Maybe this is me showing my age. Though I’m still under 30. So I don’t feel that old. But I yearn for the days when Christian conferences had descriptive names, names that didn’t need to be explained with a subheading, names that explained in a nice tight way what attendees could expect.

Names like the Queensland Youth Convention, National Training Event, Mid Year Camp, Katoomba Youth Leadership Conference. These names meant something. They may have been a triumph of substance over style. But so what.

Marketing can be about substance. I’d argue that communication/marketing is more effective when you know what you’re getting when you make a transaction.

Tell me what the following things are – from their titles:

  • Stir
  • Spur
  • Thrive
  • Engage
  • Kickstart
  • Grow
  • Forge
  • Refresh
  • Twist
  • Merge
  • Transform

Some are better than others. Some of these verbs carry a pretty strong idea. None works without some sort of clarification that takes, time, space, and creativity (to link an obscure verb with the substance in an authentic way).

Disclaimer: I have been to many of these events and believe they are valuable. I enjoyed them, was stirred, spurred, transformed, refreshed, and engaged by them – I think they are valuable and worthwhile. It isn’t my intention to undermine the work people are doing promoting these – you should go to them because the events are good. The product is worth investing in. This should be the case with everything you choose to invest your time and money into… But the one word verb thing is cliched, and, in my opinion, wasn’t ever a great idea anyway.

I’m an equal opportunity offender – so if you’ve got examples from outside the organisations that I’m familiar with (or involved with) – feel free to share them.

One of the problems here is that you’ve got to invest a whole lot of energy into developing and explaining the concept behind the verb as it relates to your product, and if the product doesn’t match what you’re aspiring to, it very quickly becomes just another stupid product name.

And tell me – if not me – a guy conversant with Christian culture, engaged in the Christian scene, who likes camps and conferences – who are these titles for? Who do they appeal to. I don’t get it.

And that’s the problem – these names offer nothing except some sort of wishy-washy aspirational verb.

And where do we go next? Adverbs? Conferences called:

  • Faster
  • Better
  • Stronger
  • Higher

Enough. The conferences or events I’ve gone to and benefited from most in the last two years had such sexy titles as:

  • QTC Preaching Week
  • Piper in Brisbane
  • Don Carson: Looking back, looking forward
Conferences rise and fall on the quality of their content – the quality of the speaker(s) and the relevance of the topic. Fancy names might help build a brand over the long term, but if the product quality drops your brand takes a hit. A hit it may not recover from. Personally I think you’re far better off having a strong brand behind a series of events, where people trust the organisation involved to put on something worthwhile. Investing in an essentially meaningless brand name is pretty short sighted. I think.
Plus everyone’s doing it. So it’s not cutting edge anymore. It’s blunt.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

4 thoughts on “Wipeout: Join my campaign against one verb conference names”

  1. I didn’t read the whole post but this is a campaign I’m willing to support (and something I’ve been feeling like a grumpy old man about for a while).

  2. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the link to sign up for your new conference. It sounds excellent and could you please send me the details about where and when it will be held. Thank you.

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