A couple of days ago I made my first conscious decision not to attend a conference. I’m not going to say which conference, as my point here is not to bash anyone. But I do think the context and the reasons for my decisions are relevant to readers here on Hedgehog & Fox.
First of all, this was not a budget decision. I have the money on hand to attend if I choose to plunk down the $1200 or so it would cost me to do so (registration plus travel). No, this was a value decision. I looked at the agenda for the conference, considered who I would be able to network with if I went, and decided $1200 was out of line with the value I was likely to receive.
You see, as far as the content for the conference goes, I have any number of other – and in my estimation – better options available online. In many cases, these are free; in others, they are priced in a way that I feel matches their value. I keep a folder in my Google Reader with what I feel are the best blogs related to the topic of the conference; I am subscribed to a handful of podcasts that deliver great content; and there are Web casts I attend periodically or listen to recordings of that also contribute to my learning. I have even paid on a number of occasions to download eBooks or join membership sites on this particular topic.
As far as networking goes, the majority of the people I am likely to network with at this conference are people I am already connected to online using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other networks. I read their blogs; I e-mail with them. I know what they are up to and can reach out to them at any time. Of course, there is always the wildcard – the new person I might meet in the hallway who could transform my business for the next year or more. But that is at least as likely to happen online. Why spend $1200 and leave my family for two days to try make it happen at a conference?
I see at least two lessons here.
The first is that organizations worried about a drop in conference attendance because of the current economic climate need to look deeper. Cuts in travel budgets will, of course, lead to declines in attendance at face-to-face events, but anyone who expects attendance to come bouncing happily back once the economy improves may be sorely disappointed. There are simply a lot of other high value options out there now, and the forces that I have identified as driving e-learning growth will have the opposite effect on face-to-face conferences – particularly those that don’t start blending in opportunities for creating value online.
The second is that there is a big opportunity out there right now for those who move first and fast with high quality educational content in niche areas. This is a time when markets are made and leaders emerge.
So, I’m staying home. And my bet is that I will be the wiser and the richer for it.
Hedgehog & Fox
P.S. – There were some great comments on this one, but unfortunately they were lost as a result of a massive server crash at Bluehost (my former host).
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