Are Conferences Odd?

Keith O’Brien says that conferences are odd:

Having spent half of my day at AlwaysOn (which my employer served as one of many sponsors), I find conferences odd. Maybe it’s because most of the people in attendance are not people I deal with on a daily basis. Maybe it’s because I’m not incredibly social in crowds. Maybe it’s because I’m always thinking of article angles, when conferences are more about conversation. Maybe because I’m the news editor of a weekly, I can never just attend a conference for an entire day. AlwaysOn was certainly good. Maybe it’s the conference structure I find troublesome. Am I alone?

Keith, you’re not alone. Conferences are odd, because:

  1. There are too many of them.
  2. They’re ridiculously overpriced, both for attendance and sponsorship.
  3. They tend to be overfilled with vendors trying to sell you their wares.
  4. They attract a lot of groupies – you know, the same faces over and over.
  5. Too often editorial is compromised with sponsorship conflicts.
  6. There is a lot of ego, grandstanding and one-upmanship leading up to and during the speaking roles.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about all conferences, but the majority. For those conferences I do go out of my way to attend – primarily in the marketing, media and technology space the winning formula for maximizing them is:

  1. Identify ahead of time who you want to meet there, and dedicate half the time meeting with them in the halls.
  2. Dedicate one-quarter of your time introducing yourself to new people, again, in the halls.
  3. Dedicate no more than one quarter of your time to the most valuable content sessions, but be sure to research ahead of time and choose wisely.
  4. Dedicate minimal time to the exhibit floor.
  5. Of course, if you’re speaking at a conference, be sure to fit that in as well!

Most importantly, you must take a long-term view and choose wisely which conferences to bother with in the first place. Many signs suggest we are in a conference bubble right now.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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