What Exactly IS a Conference?
Posted by Ellen on March 2, 2010
- Is it an educational event?
- Marketing opportunity?
Who’s it for?
- Potential members?
- General public?
- The press?
What’s the intention of having the conference?
- Increase members’ knowledge and advance their professional skills?
- Educate the public about the organization?
- Provide opportunities for major sponsors and vendors to make connections for future business?
- Bring the board of directors and members together for the annual meeting?
- Generate revenue for the association?
- Put on a great show for the media and press?
Hmmm…. Seems we’re asking a lot from one event, eh?
Jeff Hurt, over at Midcourse Corrections, has a great post about opening and keynote speakers, and it made me think about conferences in general…
…and about my own situation. As many of you know, I left my association position nearly a year ago to pursue a dream my husband and I have shared to travel the country. But I’m still addicted to alearning and have wanted to stay connected with the association and education/training worlds.
Without an employer to cover costs of membership or the expenses related to travelling to various conferences, I’ve become really picky about what I want to do.
Conversations about “value” really hit home with me: what value is there in it for me to attend? What will I gain? Can I get that same value someplace else for less money?
I’m seeing associations from an entirely different perspective: the truly remote member.
And I can tell you that when I read about Star Speaker appearing as a keynoter, I think, “Gee, they’ll pay tens of thousands of dollars for that, but they won’t provide complimentary registrations to break-out facilitators… or provide a voucher to other industry-related content leaders to offset their travel expenses…”
Doesn’t it suggest that someone in the association (staffer, or committee chair, or board member) is more interested in meeting that person than in finding me — a volunteer speaker from the ranks of membership — a way to attend, despite my limited budget?
So what’s the purpose of the conference? What’s the intent of having a Smash-Bang-Wow-A-HAH Moment keynoter?
And what’s the best balance between what you’re spending on that speaker — and other extras — versus providing registration fee waivers, travel vouchers, or investing in better connections to your truly remote members who will not be attending?
Or are you perpetuating a conference model that needs to be transformed?