Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Conference Attendance Patterns

Ever noticed the patterns of attendees at conferences...

One of the biggest observations I have noted amongst my peers is that none of them have ever bothered to attend a conference in the UK. It seems though that many folks from Europe have attended US conferences though. Likewise, it seems as if UK based conferences never bother seeking out US based speakers with any frequency with the exception of John Zachman and Donald Tapscott. I haven't spoken at a conference outside of the United States since 2003. Maybe I am long overdue and simply awaiting another invite.

Another interesting trend is that many conferences are starting to waive fees for customers of large enterprises. Most recently, the Infoworld SOA conference has taken this step which feels like a smart move. For all those vendors who provide sponsorship in terms of booth space, it seems like they should spend money where they are guaranteed to get the most eyeballs capable of buying their offerings.

Conferences such as OSCON and other ones put on by O'Reilly Media seem to be consumerish in nature whereby they do a great job of attracting paid attendance but this is done at the expense of those vendors shelling out money to advertise. It would be intriguing if industry analysts started providing guidance to software vendors in terms of which conferences have the best return on investment.

Ever notice that vendors in the secure coding practices space never seem to have booths at industry conferences? You may also note that you rarely will see security consulting firms with booths either. Not sure why this occurs?

Conferences seems to be migrating away from the single speaker who is usually from a software vendor who paid for a booth and got a speaking slot thrown in towards a model that feels more panel-oriented. The ability to attract multiple names seems like a smart move. I have been invited to serve on over six panels this year, many of which I have had to turn down as I am constraining my speaking events to New York and Boston this year unless a really interesting international one comes along.

Conferences as a whole seem to be on a decline as end-customers seem more interested in controlling the agenda themselves. Conferences should figure out ways to have outsiders not only select speakers but to vote on what topics are of interest to them. If you aren't familiar with Information Management Forum or the Technology Managers Forum you should be. They are growing incredibly popular using formats where vendors or consulting firms aren't allowed to speak which calls out the strong desire to hear the experiences of real-world end-customers and not using vendors and analyst firms as proxies...

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