Friday 2 July 2021 1:31 pm

Monte Carlo or bust! Physical crypto conferences are back

In November of the year 2020 or whenever that was, I was invited to Pakistan to speak IN PERSON at an event in Karachi and gladly accepted it. Karachi: proper bandit country. Who wouldn’t go?

What followed afterwards was probably worthy of a book in itself. 

The hastily-arranged VIP visa that took two minutes at London’s Pakistani High Commission, the madcap drive from Brighton to Nottingham to get a PCR test verified, empty airports, the problem with Emirates in Dubai, the amount of A4 paper, the amount of apps.

Then there was the masked conference, NO alcohol, the post-conference drive to the coast to meet the gayest camel drover in Asia as well as the sea-swimming, buying Kashmiri carpets without a bodyguard, the rozzers… and realising that out of all the invited guests, I was by far the least qualified and the organiser didn’t like me very much.

Then there was the PCR test in the hotel before coming home and the man in the worst Hamzat suit ever made and the bureaucracy on return to the UK. It was my experiment to see what travelling was going to be like and it was also a week out of UK lockdown with a lot of stories (see above).

In these 15 months of virtual national imprisonment, travelling in the future and arranging your own travel instead of having a (Pakistani) government arrange it all for you isn’t the most glorious prospect and I’m not talking about doing it rough in Karachi and risking your Western life in a hostel, but going to business conferences and all of that ‘essential travel’.

Changed for the worse

Moreover, Zoom conferences are soooo over, dahling! Not only does the tech and the BlackMirrorEsque nature of them destroy any spontaneity as only two of our senses are used out of the five we possess, the nature of them has changed for the worse. 

As an MC and moderator, the whole point of being on stage is to think as fast as you will ever do. While your head is swirling with everything, you also have to remember the last thing the panellist or interviewee said, otherwise you completely ruin the conversation. 

However, it just-about always works and it’s exhilarating to do it, especially with the terror and nerves that go with it beforehand.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview one of the pioneers of the internet, a great personal ambition and another one to add to the CV. But things have changed from the times I interviewed Woz in Beirut and Vienna (and McAfee, of course) when I could ask anything and in whatever style I wanted.

This time, it was so controlled that I was even asked to take down a tweet announcing my happiness at interviewing him and that’s why I’m not mentioning his name because I made a promise to the organiser. The event went well, but it would have been better in the flesh and under the old rules, not the new ones of strangulation.

So, I’m getting even and (in the immortal words of Peter Finch in the 1976 Sydney Lumet film Network) I’m breaking out of this nonsense because ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this any more!’.

Not only am I going to attend a crypto conference in a different country, I’m going to do it my way without being controlled by a government issuing me a visa and doing things for me.

I’m going there under my own steam (mostly) and I’m going to drive the 880 miles to Monte Carlo for the CC Forum conference in Monaco, where I’m moderating a couple of sessions and doing my other job, evangelising and raising the profile of Sienna Network. That’s if the principality allows my car in, it not being a Lambo or Ferrari or whatever.

Like a mixture of the films I liked as a kid Monte Carlo Or Bust and Herbie (The Love Bug) Goes to Monte Carlo, I’m driving via Newhaven/Dieppe ferry in my old VW Golf that is so decrepit that even the wing-mirrors are different colours.

It’s what we used to call before the Pandemic, an adventure. The journey that is, not the car. 

It’s an adventure

Of course, I’m going to the South of France. It’s not taking risks in Karachi or hitchhiking through Ethiopia and Somaliland or doing the Annapurna Base Camp in Blundstone boots and I’m sure none of it will go to plan (still haven’t done the PCR test), but it’s an adventure and an experiment at the same time.

Will my double-vaccination status be enough? Will the rules change over the weekend or while I’m in France? Will the car inevitably break down? Will my forgotten French get me out of trouble? How will I pay for all those tolls? What will the traffic be like? Will I get there on time? And… will I be so Zoomed out that I will have lost what stagecraft skills I once had?

I don’t care, because I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this any more. It’s time to throw caution at that ineffectual wind and start living and being stupid again 

Time to prepare for this next act where nobody knows how the play ends, but if you’re not in it, you’re going to be off-stage for the rest of your life. 

Act three. France. CC Forum. Stage South. Au revoir. Exeunt.

Monty Munford is a tech journalist and is the Chief Evangelist and core contributor to the Sienna Network project. 

He WAS a keynote speaker/MC/moderator/interviewer at prestigious events around the world until Covid destroyed his conference speaking career… until 2023. He has spoken at more than 200 global events.

He also runs his own crypto podcast 

He was previously a weekly tech columnist for Forbes in New York, the Telegraph in the UK and continues to write regularly for the BBC, The Economist, The FT and… City AM.