More Conference Woes

February 19, 2009

The landscape of conferences is like the hillside in the aftermath of Mt. St. Helen’s. Erick Schonfeld has a useful write up about DEMO, a tony conference that seems to be paddling upstream. You can read his article “DEMO Gets Desperate: Shipley Out, Marshall In” here. DEMO is just one of many conferences facing a tough market with an approach that strikes me as expensive and better suited for an economy past. I received an email this morning from a conference organizer who sent me a request to propose a paper. My colleague in Toronto and I proposed a paper based on new work we had done in content management and search. The conference organizer told us that there were too many papers on that type of subject but we were welcome to pay the registration fee and come to hear other speakers. My colleague and I wondered, “First, the organizer asks us to talk, then baits and switches us become paid attendees.” Our reaction was, “Not this time.” Here’s what I received in my email this morning, February 19, 2009:

Due to the current economy, I have decided to extend the Content Management ****/**** North America Conference Valentine’s Day discounted rate to March 2, 2009. This is a $200 discount for all Non-**** members. (**** members can register at anytime at a $300 discounted member rate.) This is meant for those of you needing additional time to get approval to attend the conference. I understand that with the current economy it is becoming harder to obtain funding for educational events. Hopefully by offering this type of discount I will be able to give you the extra support needed to get that final approval. [Emphasis added]

I have masked the specifics of this conference, but I read this with some skepticism.

Valentine’s Day is over. I surmise the traditional conference business is headed in that direction as well.

Telling me via an email that I need additional time to get approval to attend a conference is silly. I own my business. Furthermore, the organizer’s appeal  makes me suspicious of not just this conference but others that have been around a long time and offer little in the way of information that exerts a magnetic pull on me.

Conferences that have lost their sizzle are like my mom’s burned roast after a couple of days in the trash can. Not too appealing. What’s the fix? Innovation and creative thinking. Conference organizers who “run the game plan” don’t meet my needs right now. Venture Beat type conferences do.

Stephen Arnold, February 19, 2009


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