Saturday, February 18, 2006
How to improve industry conferences
Here are several thoughts:
- Conference chairs, thinly veiled sales presentations chock-a-block with eye candy by industry CTOs and consultants are starting to bore folks. It really isn't that difficult to get speakers from corporate America or even government. The main problem may be the model where you sit back and wait for folks to propose ideas to you instead of being proactive and tracking them down.
- The hotel rates are obscene. I know part of the package you folks pay for a venue includes the notion of selling a block of hotel rooms but seriously, you need to get the prices down a lot cheaper. For example, if a conference is held in New York City in Times Square, why would I pay the conference discounted rate of say $199 when I can simply jump on priceline and find a cheaper hotel next door.
- Your conference really should have a bookseller. Booksellers shouldn't be thought of as vendors, so don't try to sell them space. Give it away freely. Invite publishers and acquisitions editors to your event. Folks appreciate the ability to buy books on a subject that they may have heard discussed. You are further helping them with their goal of learning and they will repay you by talking to others about their experiences.
- Help others network. The one thing that I really appreciate at conference is in talking with peers of other Fortune 100 enterprises. If I can't see their company name clearly on their name tag then it makes this goal more difficult. Likewise, how about figuring out a way that we could make arrangements based on who will be attending in advance?
- The best conferences are not just about the sessions during the day but tend to also figure out events for after-hours. A person may have never been to that particular location and would love to see things. They could of course always pickup brochures in the hotel lobby but would appreciate advice so to avoid tourist traps. Help them have a good time not only during the conference but after.
- The demographics of IT has changed dramatically from the time I first started in IT to today. Make sure the menu has a diversity of food choices. Don't choose items such as ham sandwiches or other pork products. Make sure that you have vegetarian items, kosher and halal items. If this need cannot be practically met due to cost considerations, at least attempt to figure out in advance, local restaurants that may serve this need.
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